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Learning to distinguish between predators and non-predators: understanding the critical role of diet cues and predator odours in generalisation.

Mitchell MD, Chivers DP, McCormick MI, Ferrari MC - Sci Rep (2015)

Bottom Line: Yet, we have little understanding of how prey develop effective predator recognition templates.Our findings show that damselfish distinguish between predators and non-predators when generalising recognition.Incorporating multiple sources of information enables prey to develop highly plastic and accurate recognition templates that will increase survival in patchy environments where they have little prior knowledge.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biomedical Sciences, WCVM, University of Saskatchewan, SK, Canada.

ABSTRACT
It is critical for prey to recognise predators and distinguish predators from non-threatening species. Yet, we have little understanding of how prey develop effective predator recognition templates. Recent studies suggest that prey may actually learn key predator features which can be used to recognise novel species with similar characteristics. However, non-predators are sometimes mislabelled as predators when generalising recognition. Here, we conduct the first comprehensive investigation of how prey integrate information on predator odours and predator diet cues in generalisation, allowing them to discriminate between predators and non-predators. We taught lemon damselfish to recognise a predator fed a fish diet, and tested them for their response to the known predator and a series of novel predators (fed fish diet) and non-predators (fed squid diet) distributed across a phylogenetic gradient. Our findings show that damselfish distinguish between predators and non-predators when generalising recognition. Additional experiments revealed that generalised recognition did not result from recognition of predator odours or diet cues, but that damselfish based recognition on what they learned during the initial conditioning. Incorporating multiple sources of information enables prey to develop highly plastic and accurate recognition templates that will increase survival in patchy environments where they have little prior knowledge.

No MeSH data available.


Predator and non-predator species.Images of (a) Thalassoma lunar – learned predator, (b) Thalassoma hardwicke – congeneric predator, (c) Thalassoma amblycephalum – congeneric non-predator, (d) Coris batuensis – confamilial predator, (e) Halichoeres melanurus – confamilial non-predator and (f) Pseudochromis fuscus – distantly related predator. Photos a – e copyright by Jeanette Johnson (© In-Depth Images Kwajalein). Retrieved 16 June 2015, http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/. Reproduced with permission of creator. Photo f courtesy of M.I.M.
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f4: Predator and non-predator species.Images of (a) Thalassoma lunar – learned predator, (b) Thalassoma hardwicke – congeneric predator, (c) Thalassoma amblycephalum – congeneric non-predator, (d) Coris batuensis – confamilial predator, (e) Halichoeres melanurus – confamilial non-predator and (f) Pseudochromis fuscus – distantly related predator. Photos a – e copyright by Jeanette Johnson (© In-Depth Images Kwajalein). Retrieved 16 June 2015, http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/. Reproduced with permission of creator. Photo f courtesy of M.I.M.

Mentions: Lemon damselfish are a common planktivorous, coral reef fish, found throughout the Indo-Pacific. Juvenile damselfish are consumed by a wide range of small opportunistic predators including wrasses such as the moon wrasse, Thalassoma lunare39. Wrasses (family, Labridae) are a diverse and abundant family that feed predominantly on small fishes and invertebrates, often switching opportunistically between the two394041. We used moon wrasse as our learned predator, six-bar wrasse (Thalasomma hardwicke) as a congeneric predator, variegated wrasse (Coris batuensis) as a confamilial predator and brown dottyback (Pseudochromis fuscus) as a distantly-related predator39414243 (Fig. 4). All the predators in the study have a broadly similar ecology, spending most of their time associated with benthic coral reef habitats and foraging on juvenile fish recruits and benthic invertebrates. The congeneric non-predator, blunt -headed wrasse (Thalassoma amblycephalum) is found in the water column over the reef crest and reef slope where it feeds on planktonic invertebrates32. The confamilial tail-spot wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) is found associated with the benthic coral reef habitat and feeds on benthic invertebrates4344.


Learning to distinguish between predators and non-predators: understanding the critical role of diet cues and predator odours in generalisation.

Mitchell MD, Chivers DP, McCormick MI, Ferrari MC - Sci Rep (2015)

Predator and non-predator species.Images of (a) Thalassoma lunar – learned predator, (b) Thalassoma hardwicke – congeneric predator, (c) Thalassoma amblycephalum – congeneric non-predator, (d) Coris batuensis – confamilial predator, (e) Halichoeres melanurus – confamilial non-predator and (f) Pseudochromis fuscus – distantly related predator. Photos a – e copyright by Jeanette Johnson (© In-Depth Images Kwajalein). Retrieved 16 June 2015, http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/. Reproduced with permission of creator. Photo f courtesy of M.I.M.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4566087&req=5

f4: Predator and non-predator species.Images of (a) Thalassoma lunar – learned predator, (b) Thalassoma hardwicke – congeneric predator, (c) Thalassoma amblycephalum – congeneric non-predator, (d) Coris batuensis – confamilial predator, (e) Halichoeres melanurus – confamilial non-predator and (f) Pseudochromis fuscus – distantly related predator. Photos a – e copyright by Jeanette Johnson (© In-Depth Images Kwajalein). Retrieved 16 June 2015, http://www.underwaterkwaj.com/. Reproduced with permission of creator. Photo f courtesy of M.I.M.
Mentions: Lemon damselfish are a common planktivorous, coral reef fish, found throughout the Indo-Pacific. Juvenile damselfish are consumed by a wide range of small opportunistic predators including wrasses such as the moon wrasse, Thalassoma lunare39. Wrasses (family, Labridae) are a diverse and abundant family that feed predominantly on small fishes and invertebrates, often switching opportunistically between the two394041. We used moon wrasse as our learned predator, six-bar wrasse (Thalasomma hardwicke) as a congeneric predator, variegated wrasse (Coris batuensis) as a confamilial predator and brown dottyback (Pseudochromis fuscus) as a distantly-related predator39414243 (Fig. 4). All the predators in the study have a broadly similar ecology, spending most of their time associated with benthic coral reef habitats and foraging on juvenile fish recruits and benthic invertebrates. The congeneric non-predator, blunt -headed wrasse (Thalassoma amblycephalum) is found in the water column over the reef crest and reef slope where it feeds on planktonic invertebrates32. The confamilial tail-spot wrasse (Halichoeres melanurus) is found associated with the benthic coral reef habitat and feeds on benthic invertebrates4344.

Bottom Line: Yet, we have little understanding of how prey develop effective predator recognition templates.Our findings show that damselfish distinguish between predators and non-predators when generalising recognition.Incorporating multiple sources of information enables prey to develop highly plastic and accurate recognition templates that will increase survival in patchy environments where they have little prior knowledge.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biomedical Sciences, WCVM, University of Saskatchewan, SK, Canada.

ABSTRACT
It is critical for prey to recognise predators and distinguish predators from non-threatening species. Yet, we have little understanding of how prey develop effective predator recognition templates. Recent studies suggest that prey may actually learn key predator features which can be used to recognise novel species with similar characteristics. However, non-predators are sometimes mislabelled as predators when generalising recognition. Here, we conduct the first comprehensive investigation of how prey integrate information on predator odours and predator diet cues in generalisation, allowing them to discriminate between predators and non-predators. We taught lemon damselfish to recognise a predator fed a fish diet, and tested them for their response to the known predator and a series of novel predators (fed fish diet) and non-predators (fed squid diet) distributed across a phylogenetic gradient. Our findings show that damselfish distinguish between predators and non-predators when generalising recognition. Additional experiments revealed that generalised recognition did not result from recognition of predator odours or diet cues, but that damselfish based recognition on what they learned during the initial conditioning. Incorporating multiple sources of information enables prey to develop highly plastic and accurate recognition templates that will increase survival in patchy environments where they have little prior knowledge.

No MeSH data available.