1 Tahrcountry Musings: Fascinating Paper on Predator-Prey relationships

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fascinating Paper on Predator-Prey relationships

The latest edition of Ecology Letters has a fascinating paper on the relationship between Predator-Prey authored by Daniel R. MacNulty et al

MacNulty has followed 94 radio-collared wolves in Yellowstone for 13 years. MacNulty was puzzled by some of his observations. The breeding pair in one of the packs in Yellowstone National Park he was monitoring frequently stopped during the elk hunts to rest. He says they sat on the sidelines while their offspring did the work. After their kids made the kill, they would amble up to feed. T he two adult wolves were almost 5 years old, which is fairly old age for wolves. Wolves are old when they're 4. Those older wolves manage to survive because the younger ones in their pack kill the elk and let all the pack members to feed.

MacNulty observed that the wolves' kill rate on elk in Yellowstone declined significantly as the number of older members in the wolf population increased. Ecologists are starting to realize that age needs to be taken in to reckoning, in models of predator-prey abundance. The usual ploy of managers who want to boost numbers of elk is to kill wolves. This study clearly shows we are probably increasing the problem by this practice as we end up with younger wolves that kill more prey.

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