Evol Ecol Res 9: 1293-1304 (2007)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Strategy, compromise, and cheating in predator–prey games

Nicholas Wolf‡ and Marc Mangel*

Center for Stock Assessment Research and Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, MS E2, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: msmangel@ucsc.edu


Background: A prey’s optimal level of anti-predator behaviour depends on its hunger state and its assessment of danger in the environment. Similarly, a predator’s optimal attack behaviour depends on its own satiation level and its assessment of the risks and costs associated with hunting. The optimal behaviour of each depends on what the other is doing, resulting in a dynamic game.

Assumptions: We assume that predators are more successful at hunting their prey when prey are further from safety, and that prey are more successful in finding their food items in more risky environments.

Question: Under these assumptions, what is the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) and how does it respond to false attacks by the predators?

Mathematical methods: We use stochastic dynamic programming to compute the probabilities of prey and predators surviving a foraging season (e.g. the winter) and game theoretical methods to compute the evolutionarily stable strategies.

Results: We find the ESS, and we demonstrate that when foraging time is limited, a predator benefits from making extra ‘false’ attacks on the prey, assuming it can do so safely and efficiently. The extra attacks disturb the prey until they can no longer afford the time for anti-predator behaviour and become easier targets during the next ‘real’ attack.

Keywords: evolutionarily stable strategies, game theory, killer whale, krill, Steller sea lions, stochastic dynamic programming.

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        © 2007 Marc Mangel. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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