Predation risks suppress lifetime fitness in a wild mammal

18 December 2018

DeWitt, Philip; Visscher, D. R.; Schuler, Matthew; Thiel, Richard

Prey often reduce predation risk at the cost of lower resource intake. The cumulative effects of such trade-offs can alter resource allocation, demography, and evolutionary processes. We show how the accumulation of risk effects reduces the growth rate of wild North American porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), and simulate three evolutionary responses related to lifetime reproductive success. Individual porcupines experiencing predation risk from fishers (Pekania pennanti) grew slower and gave birth to fewer offspring. Simulations show that predation risk alone can lead to population declines, and that a female can replace herself by investing more energy into reproduction or adult survival; females that only invest energy in juvenile survival cannot. We show that the accumulation of predation risk can reduce lifetime reproductive success in natural ecosystems. Estimating the contribution of predation risk, and how evolutionary responses can mediate consequences associated with predation risk, is necessary to understand the evolution of predator-prey systems.