The impacts of burning on Thomson's gazelles', Gazella thomsonii, vigilance in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Stephanie Eby, Mark E. Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Alterations to habitats that increase the distance at which prey can detect predators can decrease the risk of predation. In grasslands, burning may have this effect for mammalian herbivores by decreasing vegetation height, potentially making burned areas safer habitats. However, few studies have tested the impacts of burning on the perceived predation risk of herbivores. Vigilance can be used as a measure of habitat safety and therefore should be lower in burned areas than unburned areas. We tested the impacts of prescribed burning on vigilance by Thomson's gazelles in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Both individual vigilance, proportion of time an individual spends looking, and group vigilance, proportion of a group looking, of Thomson's gazelles was observed in burned and unburned areas before and after presenting a model cheetah to each group. Surprisingly, both individual and group vigilance was the same in both habitats pre- and post-cheetah addition and removal. This is despite the fact that both vegetation height and biomass were lower in burned areas than unburned areas. Thus, it does not appear that Thomson's gazelles perceive burned areas to be safer habitats than unburned areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
Volume51
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013

Keywords

  • Fire
  • Habitat choice
  • Predation
  • Savannah ecosystem
  • Top-down control
  • Trait-mediated interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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