, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 807-813

Understanding the role of uncertainty on learning and retention of predator information

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Abstract

Due to the highly variable nature of predation risk, prey animals need to continuously collect information regarding the risk posed by predators. One question that ensues is how long to use this information for? An adaptive framework of predator-related information use predicted that certainty should influence the duration for which information regarding the threatening nature of a species is used in decision-making. It predicts that uncertainty contributes to the reduction in the duration of information use, due to the cost of displaying antipredator behaviours towards non-threatening species. Here, we test this prediction using repetition of conditioning events as a way to increase the certainty associated with the predatory nature of a novel salamander for woodfrog tadpoles. Tadpoles were conditioned 1, 2 or 4 times to recognize a novel salamander as a predator and subsequently tested for their response to the salamander 1 day or 11 days post-conditioning. We found that conditioning repetition did not affect the intensity with which tadpoles learned to respond to the salamander after 1 day. However, after 11 days, tadpoles with fewer conditionings responded to the salamander with a weaker intensity than those that received more conditionings. Our results provide support for the model prediction that an increase in the certainty associated with correctly identifying a predator leads to longer retention of the threat.