Predator-prey games in multiple habitats reveal mixed strategies in diel vertical migration

Jérôme Pinti*, André W. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

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Prey and predators continuously react to each other and to their environment, adjusting their behavior to maximize their fitness. In a pelagic environment, organisms can optimize their fitness by performing diel vertical migrations. We applied a game-theoretic approach to investigate the emergent patterns of optimal habitat selection strategies in a multiple-habitat arena. Our setup allows both players to choose their position at day and at night in the water column. The model reproduces features of vertical migrations observed in nature, including residency at depth or at the surface, vertical migrations, mixed strategies, and bimodal distributions within a population. The mixed strategies appear as a consequence of frequencydependent processes and not of any intraspecies difference between individuals. Themodel also reveals a curious feature where natural selection on individuals can provoke distinct regime shifts and precipitate an irreversible collapse in fitness. In the case presented here, the increasing voracity of the predator triggers a behavioral shift in the prey, reducing the fitness of all members of the predator population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)E65-E77
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Diel vertical migration
  • Game theory
  • Habitat selection
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Deep scattering layer
  • Optimal strategies

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