Hierarchy of fear: experimentally testing ungulate reactions to lion, African wild dog and cheetah

Experiments have begun demonstrating that the fear (antipredator behavioral responses) large carnivores inspire in ungulates can
shape ecosystem structure and function. Most such experiments have focused on the impacts of either just one large carnivore, or all
as a whole, rather than the different impacts different large carnivores may have in intact multi-predator-prey systems. Experimentally
testing the relative fearfulness ungulates demonstrate toward different large carnivores is a necessary first step in addressing these
likely differing impacts. We tested the fearfulness ungulates demonstrated to playbacks of lion (Panthera leo), African wild dog
(Lycaon pictus), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) or non-predator control (bird) vocalizations, in Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Ungulates ran most to lions, then wild dogs, and then cheetahs, demonstrating a very clear hierarchy of fear. Those that did not run
looked toward the sound more on hearing large carnivores than controls, looking most on hearing lions. Notably, prey species-specific
population level kill rates by each predator did not predict the patterns observed. Our results demonstrate that different large carnivores inspire different levels of fear in their ungulate prey, pointing to differing community-level impacts, which we discuss in relation
to the ongoing worldwide decline and loss of large carnivores.

Publish DateFebruary 2, 2023
Last UpdatedFebruary 2, 2023