Predator experience homogenizes consistent individual differences in predator avoidance
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In the presence of predators, many prey species exhibit immediate behavioral responses like the avoidance of risky areas, which imposes opportunity costs, for instance, in the form of reduced foraging. Thus, prey species should be able to discriminate between different predator types and adjust their response to the imminent predation risk. In our current study, we evaluated the relative importance of innate versus learned components of predator recognition and avoidance in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata). We used a feral guppy population occurring in Germany and compared avoidance reactions of each focal individual towards both coevolved piscine predators from their original distribution range and novel, presently co-occurring predator species. Wild-caught, predator-experienced as well as laboratory-reared, predator-naïve individuals showed strong avoidance responses towards all predator animations. Avoidance was stronger in small-bodied than in large-bodied individuals in both cohorts; however, this effect was significant only in predator-naïve fish. Moreover, wild-caught individuals showed a significantly higher within-individual variance (across the six predator species) along with a lower among-individual variance in predator avoidance, which resulted in a lower behavioral repeatability in this cohort. Our results suggest that consistent individual differences in risk-taking behavior (also referred to as the personality trait ‘boldness’) are modified by predator exposure and learning about predators.
KeywordsRisk-taking behavior Predator recognition Learning Animal personality Poecilia reticulata Computer animation
We would like to thank H. Geupel and E.-M. Wörner for help with animal care. This research was partly funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG; PL 470/3–1) and the B-Types project funded through the Leibniz Competition (SAW-2013-IGB-2). Further financial support was received from the Gesellschaft für Ichthyologie (GfI). All experiments comply with current German law and were approved by Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt (V-54-19c-20/15-F104/Anz.18).
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