Prudent burrow-site selection in a landscape of fear

Viraj R. Torsekar*, Aparna Lajmi, Dror Hawlena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prey should select safer breeding sites over riskier sites of otherwise similar habitats. This preference, however, may differ between conspecifics of different competitive abilities if the costs of intraspecific competition overpower the benefits of breeding in a safer site. Our goal was to test this hypothesis by exploring the burrow-site selection of different-sized desert isopods (Hemilepistus reaumuri) near and away from a scorpion burrow. We found that larger females are more likely to occupy burrows than smaller females, regardless of whether these burrows were close or away from scorpion burrows. We also found that larger females stayed longer in safer burrows and that smaller females tended to stay longer in riskier sites even in the absence of direct competition, implying a prudent burrow-site selection. We found no association between male size and the tendency to occupy or to spend time in a burrow, regardless of whether these burrows were close or away from scorpion burrows. Our work highlights the need to consider intraspecific competition when exploring how predators regulate prey behaviour.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20230271
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - 25 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society.


  • assortative mating
  • desert isopods
  • non-consumptive effects
  • phenotype–environment matching
  • predation risk
  • prudent habitat choice


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