Learning to distinguish between predators and non-predators: understanding the critical role of diet cues and predator odours in generalisation

Mitchell, Matthew D., Chivers, Douglas P., McCormick, Mark I., and Ferrari, Maud C.O. (2015) Learning to distinguish between predators and non-predators: understanding the critical role of diet cues and predator odours in generalisation. Scientific Reports, 5. 13918. pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

It is critical for prey to recognise predators and distinguish predators from non-threatening species. Yet, we have little understanding of how prey develop effective predator recognition templates. Recent studies suggest that prey may actually learn key predator features which can be used to recognise novel species with similar characteristics. However, non-predators are sometimes mislabelled as predators when generalising recognition. Here, we conduct the first comprehensive investigation of how prey integrate information on predator odours and predator diet cues in generalisation, allowing them to discriminate between predators and non-predators. We taught lemon damselfish to recognise a predator fed a fish diet, and tested them for their response to the known predator and a series of novel predators (fed fish diet) and non-predators (fed squid diet) distributed across a phylogenetic gradient. Our findings show that damselfish distinguish between predators and non-predators when generalising recognition. Additional experiments revealed that generalised recognition did not result from recognition of predator odours or diet cues, but that damselfish based recognition on what they learned during the initial conditioning. Incorporating multiple sources of information enables prey to develop highly plastic and accurate recognition templates that will increase survival in patchy environments where they have little prior knowledge.

Item ID: 43037
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2016 01:36
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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