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How well do predators adjust to climate-mediated shifts in prey distribution? A study on Australian water pythons

Ujvari, Beata; Shine, Richard and Madsen, Thomas LU (2011) In Ecology 92(3). p.777-783
Abstract
Climate change can move the spatial location of resources critical for population viability, and a species' resilience to such changes will depend upon its ability to flexibly shift its activities away from no-longer-suitable sites to exploit new opportunities. Intuition suggests that vagile predators should be able to track spatial shifts in prey availability, but our data on water pythons (Liasis fuscus) in tropical Australia suggest a less encouraging scenario. These pythons undergo regular long-range (to > 10 km) seasonal migrations to follow flooding-induced migrations by their prey (native dusky rats, Rattus colletti). However, when an extreme flooding event virtually eliminated rats for a three-year period, the local pythons did... (More)
Climate change can move the spatial location of resources critical for population viability, and a species' resilience to such changes will depend upon its ability to flexibly shift its activities away from no-longer-suitable sites to exploit new opportunities. Intuition suggests that vagile predators should be able to track spatial shifts in prey availability, but our data on water pythons (Liasis fuscus) in tropical Australia suggest a less encouraging scenario. These pythons undergo regular long-range (to > 10 km) seasonal migrations to follow flooding-induced migrations by their prey (native dusky rats, Rattus colletti). However, when an extreme flooding event virtually eliminated rats for a three-year period, the local pythons did not disperse despite the presence of abundant rats only 8 km away; instead, many pythons starved to death. This inflexibility suggests that some vagile species that track seasonally migrating prey may do so by responding to habitat attributes that have consistently predicted prey availability over evolutionary time, rather than reacting to proximate cues that signal the presence of prey per se. A species' vulnerability to climate change will be increased by an inability to shift its activities away from historical sites toward newly favorable areas. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
climate change, dusky rats, extreme climatic events, Liasis fuscus, predator-prey demography, Rattus colletti, spatial heterogeneity, tropical Australia, vagile species, water pythons
in
Ecology
volume
92
issue
3
pages
777 - 783
publisher
Ecological Society of America
external identifiers
  • wos:000290529800026
  • scopus:79955542948
ISSN
0012-9658
DOI
10.1890/10-1471.1
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d0fbe647-c16c-4588-97c7-21ce400054dc (old id 1986871)
date added to LUP
2011-06-29 10:16:03
date last changed
2017-11-12 03:44:12
@article{d0fbe647-c16c-4588-97c7-21ce400054dc,
  abstract     = {Climate change can move the spatial location of resources critical for population viability, and a species' resilience to such changes will depend upon its ability to flexibly shift its activities away from no-longer-suitable sites to exploit new opportunities. Intuition suggests that vagile predators should be able to track spatial shifts in prey availability, but our data on water pythons (Liasis fuscus) in tropical Australia suggest a less encouraging scenario. These pythons undergo regular long-range (to > 10 km) seasonal migrations to follow flooding-induced migrations by their prey (native dusky rats, Rattus colletti). However, when an extreme flooding event virtually eliminated rats for a three-year period, the local pythons did not disperse despite the presence of abundant rats only 8 km away; instead, many pythons starved to death. This inflexibility suggests that some vagile species that track seasonally migrating prey may do so by responding to habitat attributes that have consistently predicted prey availability over evolutionary time, rather than reacting to proximate cues that signal the presence of prey per se. A species' vulnerability to climate change will be increased by an inability to shift its activities away from historical sites toward newly favorable areas.},
  author       = {Ujvari, Beata and Shine, Richard and Madsen, Thomas},
  issn         = {0012-9658},
  keyword      = {climate change,dusky rats,extreme climatic events,Liasis fuscus,predator-prey demography,Rattus colletti,spatial heterogeneity,tropical Australia,vagile species,water pythons},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {777--783},
  publisher    = {Ecological Society of America},
  series       = {Ecology},
  title        = {How well do predators adjust to climate-mediated shifts in prey distribution? A study on Australian water pythons},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/10-1471.1},
  volume       = {92},
  year         = {2011},
}