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Differences in predatory behavior among three bird species when attacking chemically defended and undefended prey

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Abstract

Birds are important predators of insects and insects often incorporate chemical defenses that may make themselves distasteful or toxic to the predators. Predators can respond to chemically defended prey in multiple ways, the predator psychology approach to predation often treats predation as a general process despite the possibility for multiple responses among species. The effectiveness of a prey’s chemical defense at reducing predation might also vary depending on what predator is attacking the prey. Here, we compared the attack strategies of three different species of avian predators (Japanese bush warblers [Horornis diphone], narcissus flycatchers [Ficedula narcissina], and Japanese tits [Parus minor]) which are found in the temperate forests of Japan. We found overall, that undefended prey was preferred over the defended prey, but the different predator species had different preferences and handled prey differently from one another. This suggests that different predator species might exert different selection pressures on chemically defended prey and this adds to our growing appreciation that predator behavior can vary among predator species. Moreover, our findings emphasize the importance of understanding differences in behavior among free-living predator species in studies of aposematism and mimicry.

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Acknowledgements

CRAB thanks Tomoki Kurihara for valuable statistical advice and discussions. We thank two anonymous reviewers who made many valuable comments. We also thank Kyoto University and Kyoto City Council for permission to use the field sites. All research adhered to the ABS/ASAB regulations for the use of animals in research.

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Correspondence to Craig R. A. Barnett.

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Barnett, C.R.A., Ringhofer, M. & Suzuki, T.N. Differences in predatory behavior among three bird species when attacking chemically defended and undefended prey. J Ethol 39, 29–37 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-020-00668-w

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