A recent study conducted by Ian Hatton, a postdoctoral researcher at the McGill University shows that predators leave when there is too much prey. Contrary to our expectations, lions and other predators observe the pattern of power law when hunting their preys, scientists have concluded.
Previous studies on animal behavior have led us into thinking that wild predators do not care whether there is too much or too little prey around them. Yet, Hatton claims predators instinctively apply a mathematical power law when choosing their hunting territory.
According to this rule, there are functional relationships between two quantities. Any alterations effected on one quantity would automatically trigger a proportional modification in the other quantity.
When applied to the world’s fauna, the power law suggests the number of predators is directly influenced by the number of existing preys. While this new finding is incredibly interesting scientists think explaining this behavior would be much more challenging.
According to the author of the study, predators may choose to leave because they do not want their victims to be healthy adults. Animals rarely breed when their population is too big. Consequently, their groups are usually formed out of young adults that often dodge predators due to their good running skills and physical power.
This observation is not only valid for land species of predators and preys. Hatton has studied 1,000 reports that were registered in the past 50 years and has reached the conclusion that the same law is valid for all groups in all ecosystems. Fish, too, aim for a smaller quantity of preys because they are easier to hunt.
The scientific paper that was published in the journal of Science could be further improved, was the author’s remark. He believes the theoretical data should be accompanied by experiments and study observations on animal groups in Savannah.
In the future, Hatton plans to focus on the identification of the possible causes that determine predators to become less interested when there is too much prey. He also wants to study how the mathematical power law influences the growth of larger species compared to smaller ones.
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