The Multipredator Hypothesis and the Evolutionary Persistence of Antipredator Behavior


Daniel T. Blumstein, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, 621 Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA.


Invited Review


Isolation from predators affects prey behavior, morphology, and life history, but there is tremendous variation in the time course of these responses. Previous hypotheses to explain this variation have limited predictive ability. I develop a ‘multipredator’ hypothesis to explain the evolutionary persistence of antipredator behavior after the loss of some, but not all, of a species’ predators. The hypothesis assumes pleiotropy, whereby elements of antipredator behavior may function in non-predatory situations, and linkage, such that genes influencing the expression of antipredator behavior do not assort independently. The hypothesis is restricted to species with multiple predators (most species) and aims to predict the conditions under which antipredator behavior will persist following the loss of one or more of a species’ predators. I acknowledge that the relative costs of non-functional antipredator behavior will influence the likelihood of linkage and therefore persistence. The hypothesis makes two main predictions. First, genes responsible for antipredator behavior will not be scattered throughout the genome but rather may be found close together on the same chromosome(s). Secondly, the presence of any predators may be sufficient to maintain antipredator behavior for missing predators. Advances in behavioral genetics will allow tests of the first prediction, while studies of geographic variation in antipredator behavior provide some support for the second.