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The influence of density on frequency-dependent food selection: a comparison of four experiments with wild birds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ME Weale, D Whitwell, HE Raison, DL Raymond, JA Allen

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-395
Number of pages5
Issue number3
PublishedAug 2000

King's Authors


We compare the results of four experiments, conducted at different times and with different protocols. that explored the relationship between frequency-dependent selection and prey density in wild birds feeding on artificial populations of coloured baits. One (experiment 4) used pastry baits that differed only in the presence or absence of a red stripe, and this experiment provided no evidence for any kind of selective behaviour. The other three experiments used green and brown baits, and they all provided evidence for a trend towards increasing anti-apostatic selection with high densities (>100 baits m(-2)). However, one of these (experiment 3) provided no evidence for frequency-dependent selection at low densities (0.5-20 baits m(-2)), while the other two experiments concurred in suggesting a trend towards increasing apostatic selection with low densities (down to 2 baits m(-2)). Together, these experiments both support and qualify the published findings of experiment 1 that frequency-dependent selection by wild birds on bait populations is modified by density. Experiment 4 indicates that frequency-dependent selection may break down entirely if bait types are too similar, while experiment 3 indicates that some details of this trend with density will depend either on the protocol used or on exogenous changes in the birds' feeding behaviour.

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