Journal of Ethology

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 155–165 | Cite as

Predator experience homogenizes consistent individual differences in predator avoidance

  • Carolin Sommer-Trembo
  • Claudia Zimmer
  • Jonas Jourdan
  • David Bierbach
  • Martin Plath


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.


Risk-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).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 471 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carolin Sommer-Trembo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claudia Zimmer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jonas Jourdan
    • 2
    • 3
  • David Bierbach
    • 4
  • Martin Plath
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Animal Science and TechnologyNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionJ.W. Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiKF)Frankfurt am MainGermany
  4. 4.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany

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