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Direct evidence of a prey depletion “halo” surrounding a pelagic predator colony
Weber, S.B.; Richardson, A.J.; Brown, J.; Bolton, M.; Clark, B.L.; Godley, B.J.; Leat, E.; Oppel, S.; Shearer, L.; Soetaert, K.E.R.; Weber, N.; Broderick, A.C. (2021). Direct evidence of a prey depletion “halo” surrounding a pelagic predator colony. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118(28): e2101325118.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424; e-ISSN 1091-6490, meer
Peer reviewed article  

Beschikbaar in  Auteurs 

Author keywords
    Ashmole's halo; central-place foraging; predator-prey interaction; seabird; competition

Auteurs  Top 
  • Weber, S.B.
  • Richardson, A.J.
  • Brown, J.
  • Bolton, M.
  • Clark, B.L.
  • Godley, B.J., meer
  • Leat, E.
  • Oppel, S.
  • Shearer, L.
  • Soetaert, K.E.R., meer
  • Weber, N.
  • Broderick, A.C.

    Colonially breeding birds and mammals form some of the largest gatherings of apex predators in the natural world and have provided model systems for studying mechanisms of population regulation in animals. According to one influential hypothesis, intense competition for food among large numbers of spatially constrained foragers should result in a zone of prey depletion surrounding such colonies, ultimately limiting their size. However, while indirect and theoretical support for this phenomenon, known as “Ashmole’s halo,” has steadily accumulated, direct evidence remains exceptionally scarce. Using a combination of vessel-based surveys and Global Positioning System tracking, we show that pelagic seabirds breeding at the tropical island that first inspired Ashmole’s hypothesis do indeed deplete their primary prey species (flying fish; Exocoetidae spp.) over a considerable area, with reduced prey density detectable >150 km from the colony. The observed prey gradient was mirrored by an opposing trend in seabird foraging effort, could not be explained by confounding environmental variability, and can be approximated using a mechanistic consumption–dispersion model, incorporating realistic rates of seabird predation and random prey dispersal. Our results provide a rare view of the resource footprint of a pelagic seabird colony and reveal how aggregations of these central-place foraging, marine top predators profoundly influence the oceans that surround them.

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