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Do warning calls boost survival of signal recipients? Evidence from a field experiment in a group-living bird species


Griesser, Michael (2013). Do warning calls boost survival of signal recipients? Evidence from a field experiment in a group-living bird species. Frontiers in Zoology, 10:49.

Abstract

Introduction Warning calls are a widespread anti-predator adaptation, which can signal unprofitability to predators or alert other potential targets of the predator. Although it is tacitly assumed that the recipients of warning calls experience a reduction in predation risk, this crucial assumption remains untested. Here I tested this hypothesis with a field experiment in the group-living Siberian jay, Perisoreus infaustus. I exposed male or female breeding adults that were foraging together with a non-breeder (related or unrelated) to a model of their main predator (goshawk Accipiter gentilis) in autumn. I then recorded the warning call response of breeders as well as the reaction time of non-breeders, and followed the subsequent survival of non-breeders until spring. Results In most experiments (73%), non-breeders were warned by the more experienced breeders. Warning calls almost halved the reaction time of non-breeders during the experiment and influenced the survival of call recipients: non-breeders that were warned had a higher subsequent survival (19 out of 23) than non-breeders that were not warned (2 out of 5). However, neither kinship, group size, the age of the non-breeder, or the habitat structure of the territory had an influence on the survival subsequent to the experiments. Conclusions Since earlier studies showed that breeders are consistent in their warning call investment across different contexts, breeders that did warn non-breeders in the experiment were likely to have done so in subsequent, natural attacks. Consequently non-breeders living with breeders that called had a better chance of surviving predator attacks. Thus, these results suggest that warning calls have the potential to boost the survival of signal recipients, confirming a pivotal, yet hitherto untested assumption of the effect of warning calls.

Abstract

Introduction Warning calls are a widespread anti-predator adaptation, which can signal unprofitability to predators or alert other potential targets of the predator. Although it is tacitly assumed that the recipients of warning calls experience a reduction in predation risk, this crucial assumption remains untested. Here I tested this hypothesis with a field experiment in the group-living Siberian jay, Perisoreus infaustus. I exposed male or female breeding adults that were foraging together with a non-breeder (related or unrelated) to a model of their main predator (goshawk Accipiter gentilis) in autumn. I then recorded the warning call response of breeders as well as the reaction time of non-breeders, and followed the subsequent survival of non-breeders until spring. Results In most experiments (73%), non-breeders were warned by the more experienced breeders. Warning calls almost halved the reaction time of non-breeders during the experiment and influenced the survival of call recipients: non-breeders that were warned had a higher subsequent survival (19 out of 23) than non-breeders that were not warned (2 out of 5). However, neither kinship, group size, the age of the non-breeder, or the habitat structure of the territory had an influence on the survival subsequent to the experiments. Conclusions Since earlier studies showed that breeders are consistent in their warning call investment across different contexts, breeders that did warn non-breeders in the experiment were likely to have done so in subsequent, natural attacks. Consequently non-breeders living with breeders that called had a better chance of surviving predator attacks. Thus, these results suggest that warning calls have the potential to boost the survival of signal recipients, confirming a pivotal, yet hitherto untested assumption of the effect of warning calls.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:17 Jan 2014 11:12
Last Modified:03 Aug 2017 16:14
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1742-9994
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-9994-10-49
PubMed ID:23941356

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