Possums in the park: efficient foraging under the risk of predation or of competition?

Many eutherian mammals adjust their foraging behaviour according to the presence or threat of predators. Here, we examine experimentally whether an urban population of brushtail possums, Trichosurus vulpecula, similarly adjust their foraging behaviour. Our field experiments manipulated the quantity of food items in artificial feeders placed at different distances from trees. These experiments showed that the possums remained longer at feeders placed far from the trees, but their foraging behaviour did not change with the initial amount of food. The scanning behaviour of possums did not simply increase with distance from the trees, as predicted from studies of other vertebrates. Nevertheless, the number of physical conflicts between individuals increased as the amount of available food decreased. These data suggest that the changes in the foraging behaviour of the possums in this population do not reflect a simple trade-off between foraging efficiency and the risk of predation or competition.

Author McDonald-Madden, E., Akers, L. K., Brenner, D. J., Howell, S., Patullo, B. W. and Elgar, M. A.
Year 2000
Secondary title Australian Journal of Zoology
Volume 48
Number 2
Pages 155-160
Region VIC
Links https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/ZO99061.htm