Inferring Predator Behavior from Attack Rates on Prey-Replicas That Differ in Conspicuousness
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CitationStuart, Yoel Eli, Nathan Dappen, and Neil Losin. 2012. Inferring predator behavior from attack rates on prey-replicas that differ in conspicuousness. PLoS ONE 7(10): e48497.
AbstractBehavioral ecologists and evolutionary biologists have long studied how predators respond to prey items novel in color and pattern. Because a predatory response is influenced by both the predator’s ability to detect the prey and a post-detection behavioral response, variation among prey types in conspicuousness may confound inference about post-prey-detection predator behavior. That is, a relatively high attack rate on a given prey type may result primarily from enhanced conspicuousness and not predators’ direct preference for that prey. Few studies, however, account for such variation in conspicuousness. In a field experiment, we measured predation rates on clay replicas of two aposematic forms of the poison dart frog Dendrobates pumilio, one novel and one familiar, and two cryptic controls. To ask whether predators prefer or avoid a novel aposematic prey form independently of conspicuousness differences among replicas, we first modeled the visual system of a typical avian predator. Then, we used this model to estimate replica contrast against a leaf litter background to test whether variation in contrast alone could explain variation in predator attack rate. We found that absolute predation rates did not differ among color forms. Predation rates relative to conspicuousness did, however, deviate significantly from expectation, suggesting that predators do make post-detection decisions to avoid or attack a given prey type. The direction of this deviation from expectation, though, depended on assumptions we made about how avian predators discriminate objects from the visual background. Our results show that it is important to account for prey conspicuousness when investigating predator behavior and also that existing models of predator visual systems need to be refined.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11738406
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