Interplay of competition and facilitation in grazing succession by migrant Serengeti herbivores

T. Michael Anderson, Staci A. Hepler, Ricardo M. Holdo, Jason E. Donaldson, Robert J. Erhardt, Grant J.C. Hopcraft, Matthew C. Hutchinson, Sarah E. Huebner, Thomas A. Morrison, Jeffry Muday, Issack N. Munuo, Meredith S. Palmer, Johan Pansu, Robert M. Pringle, Robert Sketch, Craig Packer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Competition, facilitation, and predation offer alternative explanations for successional patterns of migratory herbivores. However, these interactions are difficult to measure, leaving uncertainty about the mechanisms underlying body-size-dependent grazing—and even whether succession occurs at all. We used data from an 8-year camera-trap survey, GPS-collared herbivores, and fecal DNA metabarcoding to analyze the timing, arrival order, and interactions among migratory grazers in Serengeti National Park. Temporal grazing succession is characterized by a “push-pull” dynamic: Competitive grazing nudges zebra ahead of co-migrating wildebeest, whereas grass consumption by these large-bodied migrants attracts trailing, small-bodied gazelle that benefit from facilitation. “Natural experiments” involving intense wildfires and rainfall respectively disrupted and strengthened these effects. Our results highlight a balance between facilitative and competitive forces in co-regulating large-scale ungulate migrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-788
Number of pages7
Issue number6684
StatePublished - Feb 16 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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