Outrun or Outmaneuver: Predator-prey interactions as a model system for integrating biomechanical studies in a broader ecological and evolutionary context

TY Moore, AA Biewener


Behavioral studies performed in natural habitats provide a context for the development of hypotheses and the design of experiments relevant both to biomechanics and to evolution. In particular, predator–prey interactions are a model system for integrative study because success or failure of predation has a direct effect on fitness and drives the evolution of specialized performance in both predator and prey. Although all predators share the goal of capturing prey, and all prey share the goal of survival, the behavior of predators and prey are diverse in nature. This article presents studies of some predator–prey interactions sharing common predation strategies that reveal general principles governing the behaviors of predator and prey, even in distantly related taxa. Studies of predator–prey interactions also reveal that maximal performance observed in a laboratory setting is not necessarily the performance that determines fitness. Thus, considering locomotion in the context of predation ecology can aid in evolutionarily relevant experimental design. Classification by strategy reveals that displaying unpredictable trajectories is a relevant anti-predator behavior in response to multiple predation strategies. A predator’s perception and pursuit of prey can be affected indirectly by divergent locomotion of similar animals that share an ecosystem. Variation in speed and direction of locomotion that directly increases the unpredictability of a prey’s trajectory can be increased through genetic mutation that affects locomotor patterns, musculoskeletal changes that affect maneuverability, and physical interactions between an animal and the environment. By considering the interconnectedness of ecology, physical constraints, and the evolutionary history of behavior, studies in biomechanics can be designed to inform each of these fields.


Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard

Corrections in the Integrative and Comparative Biology version:

Line 672 - "solid lines indicate instantaneous velocity"

Line 440 - "The evolutionary transitions from water to land and from land to air involve expansion of the locomotor niche, and it has been suggested that evasion of predators drives the expansion of niches in these cases (Davenport, 1994; Dudley, 2000; Dial, 2003)."


author = {Moore, Talia Yuki and Biewener, Andrew A.},
journal = {Integrative and Comparative Biology},
number = {6},
pages = {1188--1197},
title = {{Outrun or Outmaneuver: Predator-prey interactions as a model system for integrating biomechanical studies in a broader ecological and evolutionary context}},
volume = {55},
year = {2015}

This work was supported by the Robert A. Chapman Memorial Scholarship, a Putnam Expedition Grant from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, and a Deakin-Royce Graduate Research Fellowship from the Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies.

© 2017 by Talia Yuki Moore

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