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Innate and Learned Predator Recognition Mediated by Chemical Signals in Eurycea nana

Authors


Caitlin R. Gabor, Department of Biology, Texas State University-San Marcos, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX, 78666 USA.
E-mail: gabor@txstate.edu

Abstract

Effective and efficient predator recognition and avoidance are essential for the persistence of prey populations, especially in habitats where non-native predators have been introduced. Predator recognition studies are commonly couched within a learned or innate dichotomous framework; however, characteristics of some systems or species could favor innate recognition combined with the ability to alter avoidance responses based on experience with predators. Eurycea nana is a fully aquatic salamander inhabiting a system with a diverse, yet temporally stable, community of native and non-native opportunistically foraging fish predators. To examine predator recognition, we examined avoidance responses (decreased activity) of predator-naïve (first-generation, captive-reared) and predator-experienced (recently collected) E. nana to the chemical cues of a native predator, a non-native predator, a non-predator, and a blank control. Both predator-naïve and predator-experienced E. nana significantly lowered activity in response to the native fish predator when compared with a blank control. Interestingly, predator-naïve E. nana decreased activity in response to the non-native fish predator while predator-experienced E. nana did not. These results indicate that while there is an innate component to predator recognition in E. nana, experience and risk assessment may also be important.

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