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Migratory coupling between predators and prey


Animal migrations act to couple ecosystems and are undertaken by some of the world’s most endangered taxa. Predators often exploit migrant prey, but the movements taken by these consumers are rarely studied or understood. We define such movements, where migrant prey induce large-scale movements of predators, as migratory coupling. Migratory coupling can have ecological consequences for the participating prey, predators and the communities they traverse across the landscape. We review examples of migratory coupling in the literature and provide hypotheses regarding conditions favourable for their occurrence. We also provide a framework for interactions induced by migratory coupling and demonstrate their potential community-level impacts by examining other forms of spatial shifts in predators. Migratory coupling integrates the fields of landscape, movement, food web and community ecologies, and represents an understudied frontier in ecology.

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N.B.F. was supported via a Vanier Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canada’s Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), a postdoctoral internship through the MITACS Accelerate program, and the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project (SSMSP publication no. 24). This paper is a contribution from the ideasOTN program. The authors thank B. Harrower for helpful comments on previous drafts and M. Humphries for insightful comments regarding the manuscript's contents.

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N.B.F., J.B.A., D.A.B. and S.G.H. contributed to the conception, writing and editing of this Review.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Nathan B. Furey.

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Fig. 1: Conceptual display of predator and prey foraging interactions that create conditions for the occurrence of migratory coupling.
Fig. 2: Examples of migratory coupling structures.
Fig. 3: Examples of migratory coupling, described by predators induced by migrant prey, and characteristics of predator and prey movements10,12,21,22,24,35,36,37,67,68,120,121.
Fig. 4: Hypothesized conditions expected to generate gradients in migratory coupling potential.
Fig. 5: Potential community-level impacts of migratory coupling at resident habitats, predator movement corridors and site of exploitation of migrant prey.