Cyclic Dynamics in a Simple Vertebrate Predator-Prey Community

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Science  31 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5646, pp. 866-868
DOI: 10.1126/science.1087509

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The collared lemming in the high-Arctic tundra in Greenland is preyed upon by four species of predators that show marked differences in the numbers of lemmings each consumes and in the dependence of their dynamics on lemming density. A predatorprey model based on the field-estimated predator responses robustly predicts 4-year periodicity in lemming dynamics, in agreement with long-term empirical data. There is no indication in the field that food or space limits lemming population growth, nor is there need in the model to consider those factors. The cyclic dynamics are driven by a 1-year delay in the numerical response of the stoat and stabilized by strongly density-dependent predation by the arctic fox, the snowy owl, and the long-tailed skua.

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