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Foraging behavior of three Tasmanian macropodid marsupials in response to present and historical predation threat

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It is often essential to understand historical selection regimes to explain current traits. We studied antipredator behavior of three Tasmanian macropodid marsupials – Forester kangaroos Macropus giganteus, Bennett's wallabies M. rufogriseus, and Tasmanian pademelons Thylogale billardierii– to understand how antipredator behavior functions in a relatively intact predator community. We also compared behavior of the kangaroos and wallabies on a predator-free island where they were translocated from mainland Tasmania 30 yr ago. Both species allowed humans to get closer to them on the predator-free island; a finding consistent with a reduced risk of predation on the island. Neither kangaroos, nor wallabies, exhibited group size effects – they did not modify time allocated to foraging or antipredator vigilance as a function of group size at either site. Nor did overall time allocation vary in any consistent way. In contrast, mainland Australian sibling-species of Forester kangaroos and Bennett's wallabies have both been reported to have group size effects. It is possible either that the extinction of the thylacine Thylacinus cynocephalus in the last century has led to an evolutionary loss of group size effects and other antipredator behavior, or that thylacines were never that important a predator on Tasmanian subspecies. In contrast, Tasmanian pademelons studied on the Tasmanian mainland modified time allocation as a function of group size suggesting that they perceived safety in numbers. Pademelons, because of their body size, are relatively more vulnerable than larger-bodied macropodids to the rich community of marsupial carnivores in Tasmania, and used a mix of social and individual strategies to manage predation risk.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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