PerspectiveEcology

How large predators manage the cost of hunting

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 33-34
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260170

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Summary

Being a large carnivore is not easy. First, there is the food, the energy they need to survive, which by definition consists mainly of other animals. This means that meeting daily energetic needs is not as easy as just going out and gathering plants that are waiting around to be found and eaten. Large carnivores often prey on animals that are bigger than themselves and that try to avoid being killed. Foraging by carnivores becomes a two-player game of stealth and fear (1), making it more difficult and thus energetically costly for carnivores to catch enough to stay alive. Large carnivores must balance the energy spent seeking and subduing prey with the energy they get back when they catch something—which does not happen as often as one might think (24). Two reports in this issue, by Scantlebury et al. (5) on page 79 and by Williams et al. (6) on page 81, look at how two carnivores, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus; see the first photo) and pumas (Puma concolor; see the second photo), tread the fine line of energy losses and gains in order to survive.