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Persistence of Alarm-Call Behaviour in the Absence of Predators: A Comparison Between Wild and Captive-Born Meerkats (Suricata suricatta)


Hollén, L I; Manser, M B (2007). Persistence of Alarm-Call Behaviour in the Absence of Predators: A Comparison Between Wild and Captive-Born Meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Ethology, 113(11):1038-1047.

Abstract

Performing correct anti-predator behaviour is crucial for prey to survive. But are such abilities lost in species or populations living in predator-free environments? How individuals respond to the loss of predators has been shown to depend on factors such as the degree to which anti-predator behaviour relies on experience, the type of cues evoking the behaviour, the cost of expressing the behaviour and the number of generations under which the relaxed selection has taken place. Here we investigated whether captive-born populations of meerkats (Suricata suricatta) used the same repertoire of alarm calls previously documented in wild populations and whether captive animals, as wild ones, could recognize potential predators through olfactory cues. We found that all alarm calls that have been documented in the wild also occurred in captivity and were given in broadly similar contexts. Furthermore, without prior experience of odours from predators, captive meerkats seemed to dist inguish between faeces of potential predators (carnivores) and non-predators (herbivores). Despite slight structural differences, the alarm calls given in response to the faeces largely resembled those recorded in similar contexts in the wild. These results from captive populations suggest that direct, physical interaction with predators is not necessary for meerkats to perform correct anti-predator behaviour in terms of alarm-call usage and olfactory predator recognition. Such behaviour may have been retained in captivity because relatively little experience seems necessary for correct performance in the wild and/or because of the recency of relaxed selection on these populations.

Performing correct anti-predator behaviour is crucial for prey to survive. But are such abilities lost in species or populations living in predator-free environments? How individuals respond to the loss of predators has been shown to depend on factors such as the degree to which anti-predator behaviour relies on experience, the type of cues evoking the behaviour, the cost of expressing the behaviour and the number of generations under which the relaxed selection has taken place. Here we investigated whether captive-born populations of meerkats (Suricata suricatta) used the same repertoire of alarm calls previously documented in wild populations and whether captive animals, as wild ones, could recognize potential predators through olfactory cues. We found that all alarm calls that have been documented in the wild also occurred in captivity and were given in broadly similar contexts. Furthermore, without prior experience of odours from predators, captive meerkats seemed to dist inguish between faeces of potential predators (carnivores) and non-predators (herbivores). Despite slight structural differences, the alarm calls given in response to the faeces largely resembled those recorded in similar contexts in the wild. These results from captive populations suggest that direct, physical interaction with predators is not necessary for meerkats to perform correct anti-predator behaviour in terms of alarm-call usage and olfactory predator recognition. Such behaviour may have been retained in captivity because relatively little experience seems necessary for correct performance in the wild and/or because of the recency of relaxed selection on these populations.

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9 citations in Web of Science®
10 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:October 2007
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:14
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:13
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0179-1613
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com.
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2007.01409.x
Related URLs:http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2007.01409.x
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-282

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