Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Idaho
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Falcy, M.R., and Danielson, B.J. 2013. A complex relationship between moonlight and temperature on the foraging behavior of the Alabama beach mouse. Ecology 94: 2632-2637.


Most animal species forage with risk from an ensemble of predators, wherein some predators are themselves prey to the others. A forager's behavior should reflect a synthesis of the effect of environmental conditions on both marginal predation risk and rates of energy accumulation. Here, a forager's giving-up density [GUD] is analyzed for signs of these complex signals. Specifically, we hypothesized that temperature can reverse the effect of moonlight intensity on Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates) GUD because changes in temperature change the ensemble of predators from homeothermic taxa with better vision than the mouse to ectothermic taxa with worse vision than the mouse. We fit several models to GUD measurements taken over a broad range of temperatures and nocturnal luminosities. We obtained strong information-theoretic support for a model that is consistent with our hypothesis of temperature-dependent reversal of the effect of nocturnal illumination on mouse GUD. Signals in GUDs can reveal complex effects of optimal foraging at multiple trophic levels, which is especially informative when direct measurement of taxonomic sources of predation is not feasible.