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Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 863–881 | Cite as

Does chemical defence increase niche space? A phylogenetic comparative analysis of the Musteloidea

  • Kevin ArbuckleEmail author
  • Michael Brockhurst
  • Michael P. Speed
Original Paper

Abstract

Avoidance of predation can impose opportunity costs on prey species that use behavioural avoidance strategies to evade detection. An animal that spends much time hiding or remaining immobile, for example, may have less time for other important activities such as foraging or finding mates. Here we examine the idea that the evolution of chemical defence may act to release prey from these constraints, freeing defended prey to exploit their habitats more effectively, and increasing their niche space. We tested this hypothesis using comparative methods on a mammal group containing both chemically defended and non-defended species: Musteloidea. We found that defended species had a more omnivorous diet and were more likely to be active during both day and night than non-defended species. We also found that chemically defended species were less likely to be strictly diurnal or to show sexual size dimorphism, and had earlier maturing females and a shorter lifespan than non-defended species. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that chemical defence increases the niche space available to a species. More generally, this also supports recent suggestions that strategies taken to avoid natural enemies can have important effects on diverse components of life history.

Keywords

Ecological opportunity Antipredator mechanisms Behavioural constraints Natural enemies 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Ted Garland for kindly providing the Matlab programs used herein. M.P.S. thanks Andrew Higginson (University of Bristol) for preliminary help with comparative methods. We also thank Tim Caro for valuable discussions and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by a NERC Doctoral Training Grant to K.A.

Supplementary material

10682_2013_9629_MOESM1_ESM.doc (296 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 296 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Arbuckle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Brockhurst
    • 2
  • Michael P. Speed
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Integrative Biology, Biosciences BuildingUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpool, MerseysideUK
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of YorkYork, YorkshireUK

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