, Volume 158, Issue 4, pp 765–774

The effect of prior experience on a prey’s current perceived risk

Behavioral Ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-008-1185-9

Cite this article as:
Fraker, M.E. Oecologia (2009) 158: 765. doi:10.1007/s00442-008-1185-9


The prior experience of prey may influence how they assess the level of predation risk associated with an information source. Here, I present the results from a set of experiments that demonstrate how the prior experience of green frog (Rana clamitans) tadpoles can influence their risk assessment during exposure to the chemical cue of predatory larval dragonflies (Anax spp.) consuming conspecific tadpoles. At the short-term scale, green frog tadpoles perceived a higher level of risk when consecutive cue exposures overlapped, but only when the total chemical cue concentration was weak. Weaker chemical cue concentrations may be less reliable than stronger cue concentrations, and overlapping cue exposures may increase the degree of certainty that tadpoles have in their perceived risk. When consecutive cue exposures did not overlap, tadpoles assessed the risk associated with each cue exposure independently. Predator-conditioned tadpoles responded longer during exposure to the Anax chemical cue than nonconditioned tadpoles, which suggests that a tadpole’s long-term experience eventually does influence its risk assessment. In general, the results suggest that a prey’s prior experience may influence its current perceived risk by influencing either the degree of certainty in or the level of its perceived risk. Understanding how the prior experience of prey influences their current risk assessment requires that the rate of decay of the value of prior experience should be identified at two timescales as an indicator of the current level of predation risk.


Activity level Antipredator behavior Nonlethal interactions Predation risk assessment 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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