Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 9, pp 1369–1375

Threat-sensitive generalization of predator recognition by larval amphibians

  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
  • Grant E. Brown
  • François Messier
  • Douglas P. Chivers
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00265-009-0779-5

Cite this article as:
Ferrari, M.C.O., Brown, G.E., Messier, F. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2009) 63: 1369. doi:10.1007/s00265-009-0779-5

Abstract

Despite the importance of acquired predator recognition in mediating predator–prey interactions, we know little about the specific characteristics that prey use to distinguish predators from non-predators. Recent experiments with mammals and fish indicate that some prey lacking innate predator recognition have the ability to display anti-predator responses upon their first encounter with those predators if they are similar to predators that the prey has recently learned to recognize. This phenomenon is referred to as generalization of predator recognition. In this experiment, we documented for the first time that larval amphibians (woodfrog, Rana sylvatica) have the ability to generalize the recognition of known predators to closely related novel predators. Moreover, we demonstrated that this ability is dependent on the level of risk associated with the known predator. When red-bellied newt, Cynops pyrrhogaster (known predator), was paired with simulated low risk, tadpoles displayed fright responses to newts and novel tiger salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum, but not to novel African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis. However, when the newt was paired with simulated high risk, tadpoles generalized their responses to both tiger salamanders and African clawed frogs. Larval anurans seem to have a wider generalization frame than other animals.

Keywords

GeneralizationPredator recognitionThreat sensitivityPredator odorLarval amphibiansWoodfrog Rana sylvatica

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
    • 1
  • Grant E. Brown
    • 2
  • François Messier
    • 1
  • Douglas P. Chivers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada