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A Wilder View: Looking at a predator's personality

Posted at 12:48 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 14:48:20-05

MISSOULA — We take a look at how a predator's personality can influence the predictability of prey in this edition of A Wilder View.

A study published in Nature has recently discovered new information that may help us learn more about the behavior of prey species across the world based on a predator's personality. They did this by studying the way predators go after their prey- Whether they do that strategically or aggressively.

Imagine you’re a bobcat on the prowl for prey. As you walk through the forest a rabbit pops up in view out of nowhere and you pounce. This is considered an aggressive personality type.

Alright, now you are a different bobcat in the same forest but this time you lay low in the thick grass and wait for a rabbit to come out to feed in a nice grass field. This is considered a docile personality.

What scientists have discovered is having one of these personalities can influence how prey animals evolve in that ecosystem.

An aggressive personality can lead to more predictable prey behavior such as coming out to the same field each night while a predator that studies its prey and movements will influence prey animals to be more unpredictable.

This could potentially lead to understanding more complex cognitive abilities of prey animals. In nature, multiple predators with different hunting strategies may coexist, suggesting the possibility of maintaining the differences in prey.

This research can serve as a basis for the potential evolutionary trajectory of prey species. Most predator-prey personality studies actually use jumping spiders as their predator.