The response of a selfish herd to an attack from outside the group perimeter

  • Viscido S
  • Miller M
  • Wethey D
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Abstract

According to the selfish herd hypothesis, animals can decrease predation risk by moving toward one another if the predator can appear anywhere and will attack the nearest target. Previous studies have shown that aggregations can form using simple movement rules designed to decrease each animal's Domain of Danger. However, if the predator attacks from outside the group's perimeter, these simple movement rules might not lead to aggregation. To test whether simple selfish movement rules would decrease predation risk for those situations when the predator attacks from outside the flock perimeter, we constructed a computer model that allowed flocks of 75 simulated fiddler crabs to react to one another, and to a predator attacking from 7 m away. We attacked simulated crab flocks with predators of different sizes and attack speeds, and computed relative predation risk after 120 time steps. Final trajectories showed flight toward the center of the flock, but curving away from the predator. Path curvature depended on the predator's size and approach speed. The average crab experienced a greater decrease in predation risk when the predator was small or slow moving. Regardless of the predator's size and speed, however, predation risk always decreased as long as crabs took their flock-mates into account. We conclude that, even when flight away from an external predator occurs, the selfish avoidance of danger can lead to aggregation. © 2001 Academic Press.

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