The Real Hunger Games: Prey Animals Weigh Their Options Before Fleeing Predators

SCIENCE

Assumptions about predator-prey relationships may be really wrong, new research suggests. (Cosmos)

Learn more about the “Secret Life of Predators” with our resources.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Prey species don’t always sprint away at the sign of predators like lions. These Thompson’s gazelles are weighing their options.
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • The Cosmos article describes a new study that upsets the “signal detection theory” used in most predator-prey research. What is signal detection theory?
    • According to the good folks at U.C. Davis, signal detection theory in this context “is a popular and well-established idea that has influenced behavioral science for around 50 years. Essentially, the theory holds that in a predator-prey relationship, prey animals will show more wariness and be more prone to flee as predators become more common … so in what appears to be a threatening situation, animals are better off running than hanging around to see if a predator really does strike.”

 

  • The new model of predator-prey relationships is called “state-dependent detection theory” or SDDT. What is SDDT? How does it differ from signal detection theory?

 

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Cosmos: Live fast and die young: prey animals stay put as predators increase

Egghead: Live Fast Die Young: Updating Signal Detection Theory

Nat Geo: Secret Life of Predators Education Resources

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