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11 Nov 2010: Wolves and Sharks Create
Similar ‘Ecology of Fear’ in Ecosystems

A ripple-effect “ecology of fear” created by wolves and sharks in their respective ecosystems may be more similar than previously understood, according to a new study. After comparing the relationship
Gray Wolf
U.S. Fish & Wildlife
between wolves and elk in Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. and tiger sharks and dugongs in Australia’s Shark Bay, researchers found that each of the predator species alters the behavior of their prey in ways that have ecological significance that goes beyond the species themselves. When wolves are present, elk almost immediately shift their grazing areas to less sensitive habitats, allowing streamside shrubs and aspen trees to recover, scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Washington say in the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Similarly, dugongs tend to avoid shallow waters when sharks are present, allowing seagrass meadows — and the plants and marine animal species that depend on them — to thrive.

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