, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 809-816

Prey behaviour across antipredator adaptation types: how does growth trajectory influence learning of predators?

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Abstract

Despite the fact that the ability of animals to avoid being consumed by predators is influenced by their behaviour, morphology and life history, very few studies have attempted to integrate prey responses across these adaptation types. Here, our goal was to address the link between life-history traits (size and growth trajectory) of tadpoles and behavioural responses to predators. Specifically, we wanted to determine whether information learned about predators was influenced by prey growth trajectory before and after learning. We manipulated the size/growth trajectory of tadpoles by raising them under different temperatures. Tadpoles raised on a slow-growth trajectory (under cold conditions) and taught to recognize a salamander subsequently showed stronger responses after 2 weeks than tadpoles that were raised on a fast-growth trajectory (under warm conditions). When we account for the effect of size (r 2 = 0.22) on the responses of prey to predator cues, we find that the growth trajectory pre-learning but not post-learning influences the learned responses of the tadpoles. The differences in responses to predators may reflect differential memory associated with the predator. To our knowledge, this is the first study that has attempted to link life-history traits (size and growth rate) with learning of predators. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of antipredator responses of prey animals, we call for additional integrative studies that examine prey anti-predator responses across adaptation types.