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A Test of the Multi-Predator Hypothesis: Rapid Loss of Antipredator Behavior after 130 years of Isolation

Authors

  • Daniel T. Blumstein,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
    2. The Cooperative Research Centre for the Conservation and Management of Marsupials, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
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  • Janice C. Daniel,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
    2. The Cooperative Research Centre for the Conservation and Management of Marsupials, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
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  • Brian P. Springett

    1. Ecology Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, New Zealand
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D.T. Blumstein, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 621 Charles E. Young Drive South, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA. E-mail: marmots@ucla.edu

Abstract

Many species find themselves isolated from the predators with which they evolved. Isolation often leads to the loss of costly antipredator behavior, which may have adverse consequences if the population should later come into contact with predators. An understanding of both the mechanism (i.e. the degree to which antipredator behavior depends on experience), and of the time course of loss is important to be able to predict how a population will respond to future contact. We studied ‘group-size effects’– the way in which animals change the time they allocate to antipredator vigilance as a function of group size – and visual and acoustic predator recognition in a population of tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii), a cat-sized (6–10 kg) macropodid marsupial. To study group size effects we observed wallabies foraging in four populations – three with some sort of predator and a New Zealand population that was isolated from all predators for about 130 yr. To study predator recognition, we observed the response of New Zealand wallabies to the presentation of a model or taxidermic mount of mammalian predators, and to the broadcast sounds of mammalian and avian predators. We compare these predator recognition experiments with results from a previous study of Kangaroo Island (South Australia) tammars. Complete isolation from all predators for as few as 130 yr led to the loss of group size effects and a rapid breakdown in visual predator recognition abilities. Our results are consistent with a key prediction of the multi-predator hypothesis – namely, that the isolation from all predators may lead to a rapid loss of antipredator behavior.

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