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Instantaneous energetics of puma kills reveal advantage of felid sneak attacks

Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 81-85
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254885

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The costs and benefits of stalking and chasing

Organisms live under a constant balance between getting and using energy. Large carnivores may feel this balance more acutely because of the large amounts of energy needed to capture and subdue their prey. Williams et al. and Scantlebury et al. used remote measures of physiology and behavior to identify the hunting strategies of the stalking North American puma and the speedy African cheetah (see the Perspective by Laundré). In both cases the cats' hunting strategies are well matched to produce a balance between the energy they spend on the hunt and the energy they acquire from their prey, despite their very different strategies and levels of competition.

Science, this issue p. 81, p. 79; see also p. 33

Abstract

Pumas (Puma concolor) live in diverse, often rugged, complex habitats. The energy they expend for hunting must account for this complexity but is difficult to measure for this and other large, cryptic carnivores. We developed and deployed a physiological SMART (species movement, acceleration, and radio tracking) collar that used accelerometry to continuously monitor energetics, movements, and behavior of free-ranging pumas. This felid species displayed marked individuality in predatory activities, ranging from low-cost sit-and-wait behaviors to constant movements with energetic costs averaging 2.3 times those predicted for running mammals. Pumas reduce these costs by remaining cryptic and precisely matching maximum pouncing force (overall dynamic body acceleration = 5.3 to 16.1g) to prey size. Such instantaneous energetics help to explain why most felids stalk and pounce, and their analysis represents a powerful approach for accurately forecasting resource demands required for survival by large, mobile predators.

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