DOI: 10.1101/487561Dec 4, 2018Paper

Predatory plants and patchy cows: modeling cattle interactions with toxic larkspur amid variable heterogeneity

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Kevin JablonskiPaul J. Meiman


The most common explanations for the evolution and persistence of herd behavior in large herbivores relate to decreased risk of predation. However, poisonous plants such as larkspur (Delphinium spp.) can present a threat comparable to predation. In the western United States, larkspur diminishes the economic and ecological sustainability of cattle production by killing valuable animals and restricting management options. Recommendations for mitigating losses have long focused on seasonal avoidance of pastures with larkspur, despite little evidence that this is practical or effective. Our ongoing research points to the cattle herd itself as the potential solution to this seemingly intractable challenge and suggests that larkspur and forage patchiness may drive deaths. In this paper, we present an agent-based model that incorporates neutral landscape models to assess the interaction between plant patchiness and herd behavior within the context of poisonous plants as predator and cattle as prey. The simulation results indicate that larkspur patchiness is indeed a driver of toxicosis and that highly cohesive herds can greatly reduce the risk of death in even the most dangerous circumstances. By placing the results in context with ex...Continue Reading

Related Concepts

Cessation of Life
Biological Evolution
Plants, Toxic
Poisoning Syndrome
Treatment Options

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