Animal alarm calls can contain detailed information about a predator’s threat, and heterospecific eavesdropping on these signals creates vast communication networks. While eavesdropping is common, this indirect public information is often less reliable than direct predator observations. Red-breasted nuthatches (
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Referential alarm calls that denote specific types of dangers are common across diverse vertebrate lineages. Different alarm calls can indicate a variety of threats, which often require specific actions to evade. Thus, to benefit from the call, listeners of referential alarm calls must be able to decode the signaled threat and respond to it in an appropriate manner. Yellow warblers ( Setophaga petechia ) produce referential “seet” calls that signal to conspecifics the presence of nearby obligate brood parasitic brown-headed cowbirds ( Molothrus ater ), which lay their eggs in the nests of other species, including yellow warblers. Our previous playback experiments have found that red-winged blackbirds ( Agelaius phoeniceus ), a species also parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds, eavesdrop upon and respond strongly to yellow warbler seet calls during the incubation stage of breeding with aggression similar to responses to both cowbird chatters and predator calls. To assess whether red-winged blackbird responses to seet calls vary with their own risk of brood parasitism, we presented the same playbacks during the nestling stage of breeding (when the risk of brood parasitism is lower than during incubation). As predicted, we found that blackbirds mediated their aggression toward both cowbird chatter calls and the warblers’ anti-parasitic referential alarm calls in parallel with the low current risk of brood parasitism during the nestling stage. These results further support that red-winged blackbirds flexibly respond to yellow warbler antiparasitic referential calls as a frontline defense against brood parasitism at their own nests.more » « less
Although experimentally simulating predator presence helps improve sample sizes in studies of free‐ranging animals, few studies have examined whether auditory playbacks and visual models produce similar results. Additionally, it is unclear if anti‐predator strategies are specific to predator hunting styles in understudied Neotropical pitheciid primates, limiting what we can generalize about this phenomenon across this taxonomic order. We conducted predator simulation experiments to assess whether wild Rylands' bald‐faced saki monkeys (
Pithecia rylandsi) recognize predators based solely on acoustic cues, exhibit predator‐specific responses to different predator types, and vary responses to presentations in different sensory modes. In our playback experiments, sakis had weak responses to non‐predator control vocalizations compared to jaguar growls and harpy eagle shrieks. In most predator playbacks, subjects' first glance corresponded to the direction from which simulated predators would typically attack (above vs. below). However, although sakis exhibited appropriate movement responses to harpy playbacks (i.e., descending canopy), they exhibited no clear movement patterns when presented with jaguar playbacks. In contrast, jaguar model experiments consistently elicited fast approaches, mobbing‐style responses, and long alarm calling bouts. Thus, if we had relied on playbacks alone, we might have concluded that sakis have only generalized responses to terrestrial ambush predators. In fact, in all variables measured (e.g., latency, number of calls, and response duration), models of both predator species elicited stronger reactions than playbacks. Results indicate that bald‐faced sakis can identify predators based solely on vocalizations, but do not exhibit predator‐specific escape responses to terrestrial predators based on acoustic cues alone. The differential response to playbacks and models calls into question the reliability of using acoustic‐only stimuli to assess the specificity of anti‐predator behavior to predator hunting styles in some primate species.
Life‐history theory postulates that physiological traits, such as energy metabolism, can be understood in terms of allocation trade‐offs between self‐maintenance and reproduction over an organism's life span, and data show that metabolic intensity and survival vary inversely with latitude, with tropical birds exhibiting a “slow” pace of life relative to temperature species. However, tropical regions harbour strong environmental gradients of their own, and it remains to be shown whether similar life‐history trade‐offs between metabolism and longevity are reflected among tropical birds of the same latitude.
We estimated apparent annual survival in 37 species of tropical passerine birds along an elevational gradient (400–3,000 m) in Peru to test whether variation in survival was influenced by basal metabolic rate (BMR; estimated at the same sites), elevation or both factors. We used path analysis to test our prediction that survival would decline as BMR increased, while accounting for the potential direct effects of elevation on survival due to differences in predation pressure or environmental conditions as well as potential indirect effects of elevation on BMR via temperature and the costs of thermoregulation.
Higher BMR in tropical passerine birds predicted lower apparent survival, regardless of the elevation at which species occurred. In addition, elevation had a direct negative effect on apparent survival, perhaps due to harsher abiotic conditions, low site fidelity or both at high elevations.
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Yue, Bi-Song (Ed.)Large mammalian herbivores use a diverse array of strategies to survive predator encounters including flight, grouping, vigilance, warning signals, and fitness indicators. While anti-predator strategies appear to be driven by specific predator traits, no prior studies have rigorously evaluated whether predator hunting characteristics predict reactive anti-predator responses. We experimentally investigated behavioral decisions made by free-ranging impala, wildebeest, and zebra during encounters with model predators with different functional traits. We hypothesized that the choice of response would be driven by a predator’s hunting style (i.e., ambush vs. coursing) while the intensity at which the behavior was performed would correlate with predator traits that contribute to the prey’s relative risk (i.e., each predator’s prey preference, prey-specific capture success, and local predator density). We found that the choice and intensity of anti-predator behaviors were both shaped by hunting style and relative risk factors. All prey species directed longer periods of vigilance towards predators with higher capture success. The decision to flee was the only behavior choice driven by predator characteristics (capture success and hunting style) while intensity of vigilance, frequency of alarm-calling, and flight latency were modulated based on predator hunting strategy and relative risk level. Impala regulated only the intensity of their behaviors, while zebra and wildebeest changed both type and intensity of response based on predator traits. Zebra and impala reacted to multiple components of predation threat, while wildebeest responded solely to capture success. Overall, our findings suggest that certain behaviors potentially facilitate survival under specific contexts and that prey responses may reflect the perceived level of predation risk, suggesting that adaptive functions to reactive anti-predator behaviors may reflect potential trade-offs to their use. The strong influence of prey species identity and social and environmental context suggest that these factors may interact with predator traits to determine the optimal response to immediate predation threat.more » « less
Defending offspring incurs temporal and energetic costs and can be dangerous for the parents. Accordingly, the intensity of this costly behavior should reflect the perceived risk to the reproductive output. When facing costly brood parasitism by brown‐headed cowbirds (
Molothrus ater), where cowbirds lay eggs in heterospecific nests and cause the hosts to care for their young, yellow warblers ( Setophaga petechia) use referential “seet” calls to warn their mates of the parasitic danger. Yellow warblers of both sexes produce this call only in response to cowbirds or seet‐calling conspecifics. Seet calls are mainly produced during the laying and incubation stages of breeding, when risk of brood parasitism is highest, rather than during the nestling stage. On the other hand, general alarm calls (chips) are produced throughout the nesting cycle and are also used in conspecific interactions unrelated to nesting. We hypothesized that context shapes responses prior to breeding as well, such that yellow warblers without a mate and active nest would be less likely to respond to playbacks that simulate brood parasitism risk. To test this hypothesis, we presented playbacks of two nest threats, cowbirds (brood parasite) and blue jays ( Cyanocitta cristata; nest predator), on territories of unmated male warblers (unpaired) and male warblers with a known mate (paired). We found that unpaired males were unresponsive toward playbacks indicating nest threats, whereas paired males were significantly more aggressive and vocal toward these playbacks compared to control playbacks. However, both paired and unpaired males were vocally responsive toward chip calls, which are informative for males regardless of pairing status. Male yellow warblers appear to adjust their responses during the earliest stages of breeding depending on the contextual relevance of specific threat stimuli, and together with prior studies, our work further supports that referential seet calls are associated with stage‐specific risk of brood parasitism.