The temporal selfish herd: predation risk while aggregations form

Lesley J. Morrell, Graeme D. Ruxton, Richard James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The hypothesis of the selfish herd has been highly influential to our understanding of animal aggregation. Various movement strategies have been proposed by which individuals might aggregate to form a selfish herd as a defence against predation, but although the spatial benefits of these strategies have been extensively studied, little attention has been paid to the importance of predator attacks that occur while the aggregation is forming. We investigate the success of mutant aggregation strategies invading populations of individuals using alternative strategies and find that the invasion dynamics depend critically on the time scale of movement. If predation occurs early in the movement sequence, simpler strategies are likely to prevail. If predators attack later, more complex strategies invade. If there is variation in the timing of predator attacks (through variation within or between individual predators), we hypothesize that groups will consist of a mixture of strategies, dependent upon the distribution of predator attack times. Thus, behavioural diversity can evolve and be maintained in populations of animals experiencing a diverse range of predators differing solely in their attack behaviour. This has implications for our understanding of predator-prey dynamics, as the timing of predator attacks will exert selection pressure on prey behavioural responses, to which predators must respond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-612
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1705
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The temporal selfish herd: predation risk while aggregations form'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this