Interactions between animals

Predation and competition are perhaps the two most important processes in structuring wildlife communities. Early studies of these processes focused on estimating how these interactions between animals affected their population dynamics.

With regard to predation, there is ample evidence from past research to suggest predators can suppress populations of the species they prey upon. For competition, it is generally accepted that competition within a species is a far more important factor than competition between species in terms of population dynamics.

Our current research studying the effects of predation and competition can be broken into two general areas, direct versus indirect influences.

Our work with direct influences includes topics such as:

  • The conditions under which prey species are likely to be suppressed by predators
  • Impacts of novel, or non-native, species on population dynamics of native wildlife
  • Competition between predators and obligate scavengers, including insects, with regard to carrion detection and consumption

We also study the indirect effects of interactions between animals. While the indirect effects of competition have been studied for decades, the indirect effects of predation have been less explored until recently. Much of that work, including that conducted at the Jones Center, suggests that the indirect effects of predation may have greater impacts on prey population dynamics than the direct killing of prey by predators.

Much of our current research involves the study of indirect effect of predators on their prey and includes topics such as:

  • How different types of predators influence prey foraging behavior
  • How predator species composition and abundance affects prey habitat selection and activity patterns

Key Publications

Cherry, M. J., R. J. Warren, and L. M. Conner. 2016. Fear, fire, and behaviorally mediated trophic cascades in a frequently burned savanna. Forest Ecology and Management 368:133-139.
Conner, L. M., J. C. Rutledge, and L. L. Smith. 2010. Effects of mesopredators on nest survival of shrub-nesting songbirds. Journal of Wildlife Management 74:73-80.
Conner, L. M., and G. Morris. 2015. Impacts of mesopredator control on conservation of mesopredators and their prey. PLoS ONE 10(9):e0137169. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137169. pdf
Dziadzio, M. C., R. D. Chandler, L. L. Smith, and S. B. Castleberry. 2016. Impacts of red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) on nestling and hatchling gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in southwest Georgia USA. Herpetological Conservation & Biology 11:527-538.
Howze, B. M., L. M. Conner, R. J. Warren, and K. V. Miller. 2009. Predator removal and white-tailed deer recruitment in southwestern Georgia. Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 63:17-20.
Morris, G., J. A. Hostetler, L. M. Conner, and M. K. Oli. 2011. Effects of prescribed fire, supplemental feeding, and mammalian predator exclusion on hispid cotton rat populations. Oecologia 167:1005-1016.
Morris, G., L. M. Conner, and M. K. Oli. 2011. Effects of mammalian predator exclusion and supplemental feeding on space use by hispid cotton rats. Journal of Mammalogy 92:583-589.
Smith, L. L., D. A. Steen, L. M. Conner, and J. C. Rutledge. 2013. Effects of predator exclusion on nest and hatchling survival in the gopher tortoise. Journal of Wildlife Management 77:352-358.