Meeting Abstract

66.1  Sunday, Jan. 6  Effect of ecology on strategies for aggregation in animals MORRELL, L.J.*; JAMES, R.; University of Leeds; University of Bath

Under the threat of predation, animals often group tightly together, with all group members benefiting from a reduction in predation risk through various mechanisms, including the dilution, encounter-dilution and predator confusion effects. Additionally, the selfish herd hypothesis was first put forward by W.D. Hamilton in 1971. He proposed that in order to reduce its risk of predation, an individual should approach its nearest neighbour, reducing its risk at the expense of those around it. Despite extensive empirical support, the selfish herd hypothesis has been criticised on theoretical grounds: approaching the nearest neighbour does not result in the observed dense aggregations, and the nearest neighbour in space is not necessarily the one that can be reached fastest. Increasingly complex movement rules have been proposed, successfully producing dense aggregations of individuals. However, no study to date has made a full comparison of the different proposed movement rules within the same modelling environment. Further, ecologically relevant parameters, such as the size and density of a population or group, and the time it takes a predator to attack, have thus far been ignored. Here, we investigate the reduction in risk for animals aggregating using different strategies, and demonstrate the importance of ecological parameters on risk reduction in group-living animals. We find that complex rules are most successful at reducing risk in small, compact populations, while simpler rules are most successful in larger, low density populations, and when predators attack quickly after being detected by their prey.