Flexible energetics of cheetah hunting strategies provide resistance against kleptoparasitism

David M Scantlebury* (Corresponding Author), Michael G L Mills, Rory P Wilson, John W Wilson, Margaret E J Mills, Sarah M Durant, Nigel C Bennett, Peter Bradford, Nikki J Marks, John R Speakman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Population viability is driven by individual survival, which in turn depends on individuals balancing energy budgets. As carnivores may function close to maximum sustained power outputs, decreased food availability or increased activity may render some populations energetically vulnerable. Prey theft may compromise energetic budgets of mesopredators, such as cheetahs and wild dogs, which are susceptible to competition from larger carnivores. We show that daily energy expenditure (DEE) of cheetahs was similar to size-based predictions and positively related to distance traveled. Theft at 25% only requires cheetahs to hunt for an extra 1.1 hour per day, increasing DEE by just 12%. Therefore, not all mesopredators are energetically constrained by direct competition. Other factors that increase DEE, such as those that increase travel, may be more important for population viability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-81
Number of pages3
Issue number6205
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments: The data reported in this paper are presented in the supplementary materials (table S1). This study was supported by the Royal Society (2009/R3 JP090604) and Natural Environment Research Council (NE/I002030/1) to D.M.S. J.R.S. was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB13030000) and a 1000 Talents professorship. We thank SANParks and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Botswana, for allowing our research in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Permit Number 2006-05-01 to M.G.L.M.) and the Lewis Foundation, South Africa; The Howard G. Buffet Foundation; National Geographic; Kanabo Conservation Link; Comanis Foundation; Panthera; and the Kruger Park Marathon Club for financial support to M.G.L.M. J.W.W. was funded by NASA grants NNX11AP61G and NNX11AL49H. We thank the management and land owners of Karongwe Game Reserve, as well as the directors of Karongwe Game Association, for supporting this research on their land. We are also grateful to the many Global Vision International field staff and volunteers who conducted the Karongwe fieldwork. We thank I. Capellini for providing additional information on DEE allometry and C. Hambly and P. Thomson for technical assistance with the isotope analysis. Author contributions: D.M.S., M.G.L.M., J.W.W., M.E.J.M., P.B., and N.J.M. collected data; J.R.S. analyzed isotopes; D.M.S., M.G.L.M., R.P.W., and J.W.W. analyzed data; and D.M.S., M.G.L.M., R.P.W., J.W.W., M.E.J.M., S.M.D., N.C.B., P.B., N.J.M., and J.R.S. wrote the manuscript.


  • Acinonyx
  • Animals
  • Carnivory
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Food Chain
  • Predatory Behavior


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