Animals often seek refuge to avoid predation, but does the chance of survival always outweigh the costs of hiding out with other individuals? Professors Jonathon Grabowski and Geoffrey Trussell, along with other colleagues, collaborated on a meta-analysis of 204 studies of aquatic taxa to determine if the indirect effects of seeking refuge can become greater than the risk of predation. This work was recently published in Ecology.

The meta-analysis determined that not only do the indirect effects of predation risk increase when an organism seeks refuge, but the amount of the increase depends on whether the organism receives partial or total protection from its hide-out. Seeking refuge can limit the prey’s access to food, increase competition, and alter fecundity.

Understanding how individuals react to certain levels of risk is helpful for predicting population dynamics and metapopulation structure.