According to a study, predators are less likely to catch prey when their prey is camouflaged and moving through forests of deer hunting season va.
In the study, a researcher took 3-6 month old rabbits from the same litter and separated them into two groups that were spared from being visually hunted by predators. The group with the predator was able to eat freely while the group without predators had to search for food around leaf litter. After three weeks of this, researchers found that the group with only rabbit food also gained weight faster than their counterparts and experienced increased levels of stress hormones as a result of having no free food in sight.
1. To understand the results of this study, first imagine that you are in a forest and feeling hungry. You spot a rabbit (the prey) and start to stalk it. Eventually you catch up to it and knock it out with a punch to the jaw. As it lies there unconscious, you could consume its flesh or continue stalking/hunting. You make your choice as you either eat lots of meat or wait around for rabbits to wander into sight again so you can feed on another fresh kill.”
2. Now imagine that you are the rabbit (the prey). You’re feeling hungry and go around looking for edible plants to eat. Unfortunately, you are eaten by a predator as soon as you spot it. Now you survive as a spirit in the forest, constantly lurking about for a moment when your predator is distracted or caught off guard by some other prey (like how we went from talking about how prey can strike back at predators to just talking about their ability to survive after death haha sorry), so you can get revenge and devour its soul.”
3. This is why most people have this image of predator-prey relations being one sided. I mean, it’s a whole “hunter kill, pray eat” routine and if you don’t kill them, they’ll just keep killing you. This is far from the truth.
4. We all know that predators are more dangerous than prey. This is why bigger animals usually get more food, the food of the weak has to be shared by everybody else (and when it’s not, there’s still enough for an individual predator to survive on), etc. However, this study shows that it’s not because they’re stronger or faster than us (although they certainly have advantages in those areas). It’s because predators have no need to hunt visually in order to feed.”
5. The team of biologists from the University of Exeter, the University of Innsbruck and the University of Vienna conducted an experiment on predators and prey size to determine whether a species’ ability to avoid visual hunting impacts their ability to survive.”
6. James Tomkins, lead author of the study stated that “Some species are capable of going unseen by predators by hiding in dense vegetation or moving quickly through dense cover. For example, a similar study showed that brown bears do not eat just any old thing when they’re stalking prey – they only consume if it’s large enough for them to consume in one go. It is therefore possible that the ability of an animal to avoid visual hunting – either by moving quickly or by foraging in the leaf litter – could be linked to its diet.”
As expected, predators were less likely to attack prey that was camouflaged and moving through dense vegetation. As opposed to prey, predators were able to easily find food in clear view, making it more difficult for them to hunt visually. (It’s not exactly surprising but this study is full of fascinating facts like this.)
7. “What is interesting is that we found that visually hunting predators do not necessarily need to consume a large amount of food at each meal, instead they could have a ‘grazing’ type of diet, eating prey over an extended period of time”, said Tomkins.
8. “This has big implications for how prey species avoid being eaten by visually hunting predators; it suggests that prey species should focus on outrunning and/or hiding from predators rather than on developing defences against physical attacks. This might explain why we see such variation between different prey species in the length of time they can spend staving off attack from a predator.”
9. “If a prey species cannot avoid being eaten by a visual predator then they have to switch their defence strategy to physical means; they need to develop thick skin, spines or antlers as an adaptation against attack. This ‘arms race’ between predator and prey is well-documented in biology, with some species developing physical adaptations that are better suited than others.”
10. It is really interesting to see how both predator and victim can gain from the ways they’ve developed for growing and surviving. I believe that this study could open doors for many more studies involving both predators and prey!