Prey naïveté and the anti-predator responses of a vulnerable marsupial prey to known and novel predators
- 376 Downloads
Prey may recognize and respond to predatory cues based on a period of co-evolution or life experience with a predator. When faced with a novel predator, prey may be naïve to the threat posed and/or unable to respond effectively, making them highly susceptible to predation. Burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) are one such species whose naïveté towards introduced predators has contributed to their extinction from mainland Australia. Here, we asked whether bettongs that were predator-naïve and bettongs which had been exposed to feral cats (Felis catus) for up to 2 years could discriminate between odors of a predator with which they shared no evolutionary history (feral cats), a predator with which they share a deep evolutionary history (Tasmanian devil—Sarcophilus harrisii), a novel herbivore (guinea pig—Cavia porcellus), and procedural control (a towel moistened with deionized water). We deployed scents at foraging trays and filmed bettongs’ behavior at the trays. Predator-naïve bettongs’ latency to approach foraging trays and behavior did not differ between scents. Cat-exposed bettongs increased their latency to approach in the presence of animal scents compared with control, and approached predatory scents slowly and cautiously more often than herbivore and procedural control scents. Taken together, these results suggest that bettongs have not retained anti-predator responses to Tasmanian devils after 8000 years of isolation from mammalian predators but nevertheless show that bettongs exposed to predators are more wary and may be able to generalize predator response using olfactory cues.
When prey encounter a novel predator, they are often naïve to the threat posed and employ ineffective anti-predator responses, because they lack either evolutionary or ontogenetic experience with the predator. Determining how prey identify novel predators is important to improve the success of translocations and reintroductions. Here, we examine how exposure of predator-naïve individual burrowing bettongs to predators influences anti-predator responses. By quantifying bettong responses to odors, we show that those experimentally exposed to cats increased their vigilance in response to odors from cats and Tasmanian devils. The results are consistent with the idea that prey generalize anti-predator responses based on non-specific compounds found in predatory odors, and that exposure to novel predators can improve anti-predator responses.
KeywordsPrey naïveté Anti-predator responses Olfactory recognition Generalization Acquired predator recognition
We thank the Arid Recovery staff and volunteers for their help with this study. We thank the two anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript.
Funding for this project was provided by the Australian Research Council.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The work was conducted under the UNSW animal ethics (APEC Approval 15/19A) and in accordance with The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (1997).
- Caro T (2005) Anti-predator defenses in birds and mammals. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- Christensen P, Burrows N (1995) Project desert dreaming: experimental reintroduction of mammals to the Gibson Desert, Western Australia. In: Armstrong DP, Hayward MW, Moro D, Seddon PJ (eds) Advances in reintroduction biology of Australia and New Zealand Fauna CSIRO Publishing, Clayton South VIC, pp 199–207Google Scholar
- Geoscience Australia (2017) Compute sunrise, sunset & twilight times, http://www.ga.gov.au/geodesy/astro/sunrise.jsp
- IBM corp (2014) IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 23.0. IBM Corp., Anmonk, NYGoogle Scholar
- Moseby K, Carthey AJR, Schroeder T (2015a) The influence of predators and prey naivety on reintroduction success: current and future directions. In: Armstrong D, Hayward M, Moro D, Seddon PJ (eds) Advances in reintroduction biology of Australian and New Zealand fauna. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, pp 29–42Google Scholar
- Parsons MH, Apfelbach R, Banks PB, Cameron EZ, Dickman CR, Frank ASK, Jones ME, McGregor IS, McLean S, Müller-Schwarze D, Sparrow EE, Blumstein DT (2018) Biologically meaningful scents: a framework for understanding predator–prey research across disciplines. Biol Rev 93:98–114CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ride WDL, Mees GF, Douglas AM, Royce RD, Tyndale-Biscoe CH (1962) The results of an expedition to Bernier and Dorre Islands, Shark Bay, Western Australia in July 1959. Government Printer, PerthGoogle Scholar
- Short J (2009) The characteristics and success of vertebrate translocations within Australia. Wildl Res and Management Pty Ltd., Kalamandu, WA, AustraliaGoogle 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. P Zool Soc Lond 55:803–848Google Scholar
- Stingemore JL (2010) Surviving the “cure”: life on Bernier and Dorre islands under the lock hospital regime. PhD thesis, University of Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar