The Little Miss Muffet Effect: Quantifying the Effect of Predation Risk on Foraging Patch Choice by Houseflies (Musca domestica)

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The ability of the ideal free distribution (IFD) to predict patch choice of female houseflies (Musca domestica) was determined by examining their distribution between two patches containing unequal amounts of food. The effect of predation risk was then quantified in energetic terms by examining fly distribution between patches of equal food, with one containing spiders. Results were used to predict how much extra food must be added to the risky patch to offset the risk of predation. Flies were found to conform fairly closely to the IFD. Predation risk had a major effect on their distribution, with fewer flies feeding in the presence of predators as risk increased. Addition of extra food to the risky patch was successful in offsetting the risk of predation. These results suggest that the effect of risk on housefly foraging behavior can be quantified in energy terms, providing a common currency for predicting the effects of resources and predation risk on habitat use.

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