Maxime Fraser Franco
ProjectQuantifying how ecological factors and learning shape individual variation in hunting behaviour using an online videogame
Predators play important roles in structuring populations and communities. When they hunt, predators display among- and within-individual variation in the tactics they use to successfully capture prey. In the past decades, a vast amount of theoretical and empirical work has shown that predators affect prey behaviour and population structure via consumptive and non-consumptive effects. However, we have limited knowledge on the mechanisms explaining individual differences in decisions made by predators when they hunt. When taken into account, this behavioural variation can have considerable impacts on the predictive power of predator-prey models. In evolutionary ecology, one of the major questions is understanding how these levels of individual variation are shaped and maintained across time and contexts. The main objective of my research is to quantify how predator-prey interactions, habitat structure, and learning shape between- and within-individual variation in hunting behaviour. Ultimately, I am interested in how the interaction between hunting behaviour and learning affects hunting performance. I tackle these questions under an evolutionary ecology framework using the online multiplayer videogame Dead by Daylight. Online multiplayer videogames contain realistic virtual worlds where interactions similar to "real-life" can occur. In these virtual worlds, we can manipulate environmental components experimentally to infer their effect on behaviour. A great advantage is they provide us with massive amounts of data. This gives us the opportunity to measure lots of individuals multiple times, and lots of behavioural variables across different environmental contexts. Understanding how individual variation is shaped by ecological, developmental, and evolutionary factors is a major challenge. Thus, my project should bring insight on how these phenomena occur in predator-prey systems.