Deep evolutionary experience explains mammalian responses to predators
- 609 Downloads
Prey may have ontogenetic experience, evolutionary experience, or both types of experiences with their predators and how such experiences influences their ability to identify their predators is of great theoretical and applied interest. We capitalized on predator-free exclosures containing populations of native burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) and introduced rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) that ensured we had knowledge of our subjects’ ontogenetic experiences with predators and asked whether evolutionary experience influenced their visual predator discrimination abilities. Rabbits evolved with red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and wolves (Canis lupus) but had less than 200 years of prior exposure to dingoes. The rabbit population we studied had been exposed to dingoes (Canis dingo) and foxes 8 months prior to our study and had heightened responses to red fox models, but not dingo/dog (Canis dingo/Canis familiaris) models. The insular burrowing bettong population had no ontogenetic exposure to mammalian predators, brief evolutionary exposure to domestic dogs and possibly dingoes, and a deeper evolutionary history of exposure to thylacines (Thylacinus cynocephalus)—another large mammalian predator with convergent body morphology to dingoes/dogs but no evolutionary or ontogenetic exposure to foxes. Bettongs showed a modest response to the dingo/dog model and no response to the fox model. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that deep evolutionary history plays an essential role in predator discrimination and provides support for the multipredator hypothesis that predicts the presence of any predators can maintain antipredator behavior for other absent predators.
Prey may have ontogenetic experience and or evolutionary experience with their predators. How such experiences influence prey species’ ability to identify their predators is of significance to theory on the evolution of antipredator response and to improve the success of translocations and reintroductions for conservation purposes which often fail because of predation on predator naïve prey. Here, we show that prey recognition for two prey species with limited or no ontogenetic exposure to predators, rabbits, and burrowing bettongs was greatest toward the predator to which they had the longest period of coevolution. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that evolutionary history plays an essential role in predator discrimination and provides support for the multipredator hypothesis that predicts the presence of any predators can maintain antipredator behavior for other absent predators.
KeywordsAntipredator behavior Visual predator discrimination Multipredator hypothesis
We acknowledge the Arid Recovery staff and volunteers for their assistance with the study and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. Work was conducted under animal ethics APEC Approval Number 15/19A and in accordance with The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (1997).
Funding for this project was provided by the Australian Research Council (LP130100173).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
- Banks PB, Dickman CR (2007) Alien predation and the effects of multiple levels of prey naiveté. Tr Ecol Evol 22:229-230.Google Scholar
- Cooper WE Jr, Blumstein DT (eds) (2015) Escaping from predators: an integrative view of escape decisions. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Dortch CE, Morse K (1984) Prehistoric stone artefacts on some offshore islands in Western Australia. Aust Archaeol 19:31–47Google Scholar
- Hänninen L, Pastell M. (2009) CowLog: Open-source software for coding behaviors from digital video. Behavior Research Methods 41:472-476Google Scholar
- Johnson C (2006) Australia’s mammal extinctions: a 50000 year history. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Kats LB, Dill LM (1998) The scent of death: chemosensory assessment of predation risk by prey animals. Ecoscience 5:361–394Google Scholar
- King CM (1984) Immigrant killers: introduced predators and the conservation of birds in New Zealand. Oxford University Press, AucklandGoogle Scholar
- Moseby KE, Read JL, Paton DC, Copley P, Hill BM, Crisp HA (2011) Predation determines the outcome of 10 reintroduction attempts in arid South Australia. Biol Conserv 1442:863–872Google Scholar
- Short J, Turner B. (1999) Ecology of burrowing bettongs, Bettongia lesueur (Marsupialia: Potoroidae), on Dorre and Bernier Islands, Western Australia. Wildl Res, 26:651-669Google Scholar
- Short J, Turner B, Majors C Leone J, (1997) The fluctuating abundance of endangered mammals on Bernier and Dorre Islands, Western Australia-conservation implications. Aust. Mammal. 20:53-62Google Scholar
- Shortridge GC (1910) Account of the geographical distribution of the marsupials and monotremes of south-west Australia, having special reference to the specimens collected during the Balston expedition of 1904-1907. Proc Zool Soc London 1909:803–848Google Scholar
- Stringmore JL (2010) Surviving the "cure": life on Bernier and Dorre Islands under the lock hospital regime. PhD Dissertation, University of Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar