Vultures acquire information on carcass location from scavenging eagles

Adam Kane, Andrew L Jackson, Darcy L Ogada, Ara Monadjem, Luke McNally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Vultures are recognized as the scroungers of the natural world, owing to their ecological role as obligate scavengers. While it is well known that vultures use intraspecific social information as they forage, the possibility of inter-guild social information transfer and the resulting multi-species social dilemmas has not been explored. Here, we use data on arrival times at carcasses to show that such social information transfer occurs, with raptors acting as producers of information and vultures acting as scroungers of information. We develop a game-theoretic model to show that competitive asymmetry, whereby vultures dominate raptors at carcasses, predicts this evolutionary outcome. We support this theoretical prediction using empirical data from competitive interactions at carcasses. Finally, we use an individual-based model to show that these producer-scrounger dynamics lead to vultures being vulnerable to declines in raptor populations. Our results show that social information transfer can lead to important non-trophic interactions among species and highlight important potential links among social evolution, community ecology and conservation biology. With vulture populations suffering global declines, our study underscores the importance of ecosystem-based management for these endangered keystone species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20141072
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Volume281
Issue number1793
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2014

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