Predator-Prey Interactions and
Habitat Selection Behavior


For decades, interactions between predators and prey have been a focus of research in ecology and evolution.  These interactions are the links that form the structure of food webs and ecological communities.  While previous research has elucidated many patterns in predator-prey relationships, surprisingly little is known about how predators and prey respond adaptively to one another in real time.  A central objective of my research is to investigate the details of predator-prey interactions in appropriate spatial contexts.  Furthermore, we wish to know about the consequences of these interactions, both ecological (e.g., stability of distributions and abundances) and evolutionary (e.g., evolutionary stability of phenotypes and strategies).  Our investigations focus on questions about how predators and prey move in their environments, relative to resources and relative to each other:  Can predators benefit by using the distribution of the prey’s resource as a guide in choosing habitat?  Are there conditions under which predators with different habitat selection mechanisms can coexist?  How should prey respond adaptively to predators?  Do habitat selection mechanisms predicted by theory and/or observed habitat selection mechanisms lead predator-prey systems to stable spatial distributions?  Answers to these questions will advance our understanding of the consequences of predator-prey interactions at many ecological scales.

The approach we take capitalizes on the synergism of theoretical and empirical studies. 
Our theoretical work employs mathematical modeling, numerical simulation, and stochastic individual-based simulations to study the evolutionary ecology of information use.  The empirical work has involved laboratory studies of a three-trophic-level system: fava bean plants (Vicia faba), pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum), and sevenspotted lady beetles (Coccinella septempunctata).

Relevant publications >>

  1. 1.Williams, Flaherty, and Flaxman.  2013. Animal Behaviour.

  2. 2.Williams & Flaxman. 2012.  Animal Behaviour.

  3. 3.Galanthay & Flaxman.  2012.  American Naturalist.

  4. 4.Flaxman, Lou, and Meyer.  2011.  Theoretical Ecology.

  5. 5.Flaxman & Lou.  2009.  Journal of Theoretical Biology.

  6. 6.Flaxman & deRoos.  2007.  Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

  7. 7.Flaxman & Reeve.  2006.  Journal of Theoretical Biology.

samuel m. flaxman

Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Colorado Boulder