Maxime Fraser Franco

Student Speaker | Étudiant.e
Predators influence the structure of ecological communities via their hunting mode. While they have been extensively studied, hunting modes are often considered as a fixed dichotomous trait (ambush vs active hunters) within predator species. While research shows that predators display intraspecific variation in hunting modes, our understanding of the mechanisms driving individual variation in hunting modes within species’ populations is limited. For instance, individuals may specialise in a hunting mode owing to ecological constrains, or switch between hunting modes in response to environmental conditions. Using a multiplayer video game, we investigated individual and environmental variation/correlations in three hunting behaviours (travel speed, the rate of space covered, and the proportion of time spent guarding captured prey) to test if individual predators specialise in a hunting mode. Following the locomotor-crossover hypothesis, we predicted that individuals would specialise either as ambush hunters because they perform better against active prey, or as active hunters who usually fare better against inactive prey. We found that predators displayed among-individual variation in hunting modes, suggesting individual specialisation. Predators also displayed limited flexibility by switching between hunting modes. As predicted, our results suggest multiple hunting modes may coexist because they are favoured against specific prey-types. In contrast, our results didn’t provide evidence for environmental specialisation in hunting modes. Our study highlights that multiplayer video games may be a practical additional tool to analyse hunting behaviour in ecologically realistic settings. By understanding individual variation in predator behaviour, we could ultimately improve our ability to quantify their impact on ecological communities.