Predator occurrence and perceived predation risk determine grouping behavior in guanaco (Lama guanicoe)
2020-06-18T21:47:59Z (GMT) by
© 2018 Blackwell Verlag GmbH Grouping behavior of social ungulates may depend on both predator occurrence and perceived predation risk associated with habitat structure, reproductive state, and density of conspecifics. Over 3 years, we studied grouping behavior of guanaco (Lama guanicoe) families in Chilean Patagonia during the birthing season and determined their response to variation in predator occurrence and perceived predation risk (habitat structure, calf/adult rate, and density of conspecifics). We considered the effect of two predators, puma (Puma concolor) and culpeo fox (Lycalopex culpaeus). We measured two common (family group size and vigilance) and one novel (family group cohesion) behavioral responses of guanaco. Our results show that guanaco family groups adapted their grouping behavior to both predator occurrence and perceived predation risk. Larger family groups were found in open habitats and areas with high puma occurrence, while guanacos stayed in small family groups in areas with high shrub cover or low visibility. Group cohesion increased in areas with higher occurrence of pumas and culpeo foxes, and also increased in smaller family groups and in areas with low guanaco density. Vigilance (number of vigilant adults) was mainly related to group size and visibility, increasing in areas with low visibility, while residual vigilance (vigilance after removing the group-size effect) did not vary with the explanatory variables examined. Our results suggest that a mix of predator occurrence and perceived predation risk influences guanaco grouping behavior and highlights the importance of evaluating different antipredator responses together and considering all predator species in studies aimed at understanding ungulate behavior.