Bearding the scorpion in his den: desert isopods take risks to validate their ‘landscape of fear’ assessment

Moshe Zaguri*, Dror Hawlena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Animals balance the risk of predation against other vital needs by adjusting their spatial behavior to match spatiotemporal variation in predation risk. To map this ‘landscape of fear’, prey use evolutionary rules of thumbs that are associated with the activity and hunting efficiency of predators. In addition, prey acquire perceptual information about the presence, identity and state of potential predators and use these cues to focus their acute anti-predatory responses. Our goal was to explore if and how prey also use such perceptual information that decays with time to update their spatiotemporal risk assessment. We placed scorpions in freshly dug burrows and recorded the spatial activity and defense behavior of their isopod prey upon encountering the burrows straight after settling the scorpions and seven days later. To corroborate our understanding, we also examined the isopods’ detailed reactions towards deserted scorpion burrows. The isopods reacted defensively to scorpion burrows during their first encounter. After seven days, proportionally more isopods approached the scorpion burrows on their way out for foraging and fewer isopods encountered it on their way back. No changes in the spatial activity were observed towards deserted burrows. In addition, on the eighth day, more isopods entered the risky area near the scorpion burrows when leaving their own burrow than on the first encounter. The results suggest that isopods used predator cues to readjust the ‘landscape of fear’. Yet, rather than avoiding the dangerous areas altogether, the isopods implemented risky inspection behavior, validating whether the danger is actual. Our findings imply that inspection behavior toward predators can be used for future planning of prey spatial activity, offsetting possible ‘information decay costs’.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1458-1466
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Oikos © 2019 Nordic Society Oikos


  • desert isopods
  • information decay costs
  • landscape of fear
  • predation risk
  • predator inspection
  • risk assessment


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