Flexible energetics of cheetah hunting strategies provide resistance against kleptoparasitism

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Science  03 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6205, pp. 79-81
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256424

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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


Population viability is driven by individual survival, which in turn depends on individuals balancing energy budgets. As carnivores may function close to maximum sustained power outputs, decreased food availability or increased activity may render some populations energetically vulnerable. Prey theft may compromise energetic budgets of mesopredators, such as cheetahs and wild dogs, which are susceptible to competition from larger carnivores. We show that daily energy expenditure (DEE) of cheetahs was similar to size-based predictions and positively related to distance traveled. Theft at 25% only requires cheetahs to hunt for an extra 1.1 hour per day, increasing DEE by just 12%. Therefore, not all mesopredators are energetically constrained by direct competition. Other factors that increase DEE, such as those that increase travel, may be more important for population viability.

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