Four scenarios in which shadow competition should be prominent and factors affecting its strength

Inon Scharf*, Graeme D. Ruxton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Shadow competition is the interception of moving prey by a predator closer to its arrival source, preventing its availability to predators downstream. Shadow competition is likely common in nature, and unlike some other competition types, has a strong spatial component (with the exception of competition for space, which clearly also has a spatial component). We used an individual‐based spatially‐explicit simulation model to examine whether shadow competition takes place and which factors affect it in four scenarios considering ambush predators and active prey. First, when prey capture is uncertain (‘the ricochet effect'). Here, the strength of shadow competition increases when it is harder to capture prey after the first unsuccessful capture attempt, whereas shadow competition is moderated if capture success is higher in successive attempts. Second, shadow competition becomes stronger when predators can capture prey arriving only from certain directions. Third, when prey tend to move along a barrier after encountering it. Here, predators located along this barrier may be more successful than those at random positions, but shadow competition in this scenario drastically decreases the capture success of predators in central positions along a barrier (i.e. having more than a single neighbor). Finally, in three‐level systems of plants in clusters, herbivores searching for plants, and predators ambushing herbivores inside plant patches, predators with ambush locations in the periphery of plant patches are more successful than those at the patch center, especially at high predator densities. Our simulation indicates that shadow competition is plausibly relevant in various scenarios of ambush predators and prey, and that it varies based on the habitat structure and capture probability of prey by predators as well as the change in capture probability with successive encounters.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
VolumeEarly View
Early online date10 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Oct 2023


  • Sit-and-wait predators
  • Foraging
  • Ricochet effect
  • Shadow effect
  • Thigmotaxis
  • Movement ecology


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