Studying mammals: Plant predators
Studying mammals: Plant predators

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Studying mammals: Plant predators

10 Living in herds

Wildebeest are only one of the species of plant predator that live in herds. Many others do too.

Activity 7

Watch the the TV programme from 30.48-47.32 and read LoM p. 109. Identify and write down (a) a couple of advantages and (b) a couple of disadvantages of this sort of communal living.

Answer

(a) There is safety in numbers for the herbivores when there are carnivores around. Within a group of animals grazing together, there are a lot of eyes to spot an advancing predator and warn the others. Also, when the herd is running, it can be hard for a predator to single out a particular individual to attack. It may not be obvious where one animal ends and the next begins. Stripy zebras may be particularly tricky to separate.

(b) If food is short, living in a herd has its disadvantages. There are many other mouths competing for the same area of grassland or the same leaves on the trees. Living in a herd also complicates social life. There are many mature adult males and rivalry can lead to conflict and fighting between individuals, using a spectacular array of horns and antlers, as you will have seen towards the end of the programme.

However, since so many plant predators do live in herds, on balance it must be beneficial. If you are studying the next course in this series, you will be looking at the lives of some of those meat eaters that are dependent for their food on the plant predators, and at some of the consequences of living in groups that these carnivorous mammals face.

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