Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Exposure to a novel predator induces visual predator recognition by naïve prey (#306)

Lisa Steindler 1 , Mike Letnic 1 , Daniel Blumstein 2 , Katherine M Moseby 3
  1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
  3. Arid Recovery Ltd, Roxby Downs , South Australia, Australia

There is a natural asymmetry within predator-prey systems. The ‘life-dinner principle’ suggests that there is an evolutionary advantage for the species that has more to lose in an interaction. There is an advantage for prey to learn quickly, especially in response to novel, introduced predators.  Here we test the ‘learned recognition’ hypothesis that posits that naïve prey species’ ability to recognize and respond to introduced predators can be induced as a result of ontogenetic experience. We did this by quantifying the behavioral response of initially predator naïve burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) living in the presence and absence of an introduced predator (feral cats) to models of cats and European rabbits (a harmless herbivore), plastic buckets (novel objects) and no object (a procedural control). We expected that if bettongs recognized cats as a threat they would be more wary in the presence of cat models than either rabbit models or the procedural control. Bettongs living without predators approached all models (bucket, cat and rabbit) cautiously in comparison to the control treatment, suggesting that bettongs responded to the presence of an object and/or model, but did not discriminate between them. Bettongs living with cats spent significantly more time cautiously approaching the cat model compared to the rabbit, the bucket and the control. Our findings are consistent with the learned recognition hypothesis and show that a predator-naïve preys’ ability to visually recognize predators is inducible through ontogenetic experience. It is also clear that these behavioral changes may be rapidly induced.