Switching to Plan B: changes in the escape tactics of two grasshopper species (Acrididae: Orthoptera) in response to repeated predatory approaches
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- Bateman, P.W. & Fleming, P.A. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2014) 68: 457. doi:10.1007/s00265-013-1660-0
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Most studies examining escape behaviour have considered single approaches and single fleeing responses; few have considered how organisms’ response is influenced by persistent pursuit. We explored fleeing behaviour of two grasshopper species to test whether they modified escape behaviour when approached repeatedly. Schistocerca alutacea did not increase flight initiation distance (FID) upon repeated approach but fled farther. Psinidia fenestralis increased its FID on the second approach but decreased its flight distance over successive escapes. Both species showed a bimodal pattern of flight direction, either flying directly away or flying perpendicular to the direction of the observer’s approach. Neither species showed a significant pattern of flight direction or change in flight direction with successive escapes. Most (88 %) P. fenestralis initially landed on sand, but after repeated approaches an increasing proportion landed in grass and hid. Both species therefore changed escape behaviour with persistent pursuit but used different tactics, suiting their flight ability or camouflage, and optimised habitat use. Three grasshopper species have now been examined for responses to repeated approach by predators and all show different tactics supporting escape decision theory. Our results emphasise the variety of escape responses across species and how the dynamic nature of escape responses vary according to an animal’s situation. Rather than single optimum escape options, each grasshopper species shows a range of responses, which vary with risk from persistent predators. Although grasshoppers provide an excellent model, it would be profitable to examine responses of a range of species according to levels of predation risk.