Cats protecting birds revisited

Meng Fan, Yang Kuang, Zhilan Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


In this paper, we revisit the dynamical interaction among prey (bird), mesopredator (rat), and superpredator (cat) discussed in [Courchamp, F., Langlais, M., Sugihara, G., 1999. Cats protecting birds: modelling the mesopredator release effect. Journal of Animal Ecology 68, 282-292]. First, we develop a prey-mesopredator-superpredator (i.e., bird-rat-cat, briefly, BRC) model, where the predator's functional responses are derived based on the classical Holling's time budget arguments. Our BRC model overcomes several model construction problems in Courchamp et al. (1999), and admits richer, reasonable and realistic dynamics. We explore the possible control strategies to save or restore the bird by controlling or eliminating the rat or the cat when the bird is endangered. We establish the existence of two types of mesopredator release phenomena: severe mesopredator release, where once superpredators are suppressed, a burst of mesopredators follows which leads their shared prey to extinction; and mild mesopredator release, where the mesopredator release could assert more negative impact on the endemic prey but does not lead the endemic prey to extinction. A sharp sufficient criterion is established for the occurrence of severe mesopredator release. We also show that, in a prey-mesopredator-superpredator trophic food web, eradication of introduced superpredators such as feral domestic cats in the BRC model, is not always the best solution to protect endemic insular prey. The presence of a superpredator may have a beneficial effect in such systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1106
Number of pages26
JournalBulletin of mathematical biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pharmacology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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