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Animal’s food-finding strategies making them extinct

Washington D.C. [USA], Nov 16 (TEH): Turns out, strategies of animals to find food can put their own lives in danger.A study using animal-attached technology to measure food consumption in four different wild vertebrates has revealed that animals using a high-risk strategy to find rarer food have chances of getting extinct.In the first study of its kind, a team of researchers led by Swansea University used thumbnail-sized electronic tags to record the movement of a number of individual condors, cheetahs, penguins and sheep in Argentina, South Africa and Northern Ireland, over a six-year period.Nicknamed the ‘Daily Diary’, the tags record a mass data – everything from the animal’s minute movements through space and time, to the temperature of its environment and light levels.”We know that animal populations across the world are taking a hit, with the most charismatic animals like lions and cheetahs being among the worst affected, but up until now, it hasn’t been clear why. Our study has revealed that animals that use a high-risk gambling strategy to find food, like lions and tigers, which have to search for long periods before they get lucky and find prey, are more likely to fail to accrue the energy they need to breed, compared to animals that adopt a low-risk gambling strategy, like herbivores such as zebras,” said Rory Wilson, study’s lead author.The average time the young of each species can survive without food depends on their size (larger young can survive for longer) but newly hatched or newly born young of none of the species studied can live without food for more than a few days.The catastrophic results of these animals were highlighted in the study by comparing two penguin species. While Magellanic penguins, which live in Argentina, can find fish easily, indicating that the odds are good for them, African penguins, whose population has been declining in southern Africa for decades, have very poor odds for their food-finding stakes.”It appears that commercial fishing has changed the game rules for the worse for the African penguins. When animals are taking rare prey anyway, even small changes in the ecosystem stemming from human activities can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of breeding success, and this seems to be the case for the African penguin, whose population is now just 1% of what it was 100 years ago,” said Wilson. (TEH)

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