Dangerous liaisons: the predation risks of receiving social signals

Authors

  • Nelika K. Hughes,

    Corresponding authorCurrent affiliation:
    1. Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
    • Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Jennifer L. Kelley,

    1. Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    Current affiliation:
    1. Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
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  • Peter B. Banks

    1. Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
    2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Correspondence: E-mail: nelika.hughes@ua.ac.be

Abstract

Individuals are at risk when communicating because conspicuous signals attract both conspecifics and eavesdropping predators. This predation cost of communicating has typically been attributed to signalling individuals because of their conspicuous role, and is a core concept within sexual selection and communication ecology. But, if predators are attracted to signals, then receivers, both intended or otherwise, may also find themselves at risk of predation. Here, we review the theoretical basis and empirical evidence that receiving also carries a risk of predation. We distinguish between the risks of receiving and responding to signals, and we argue that receivers of signals that are long lived, are highly predictable in time or place and/or cannot be received quickly are likely to be at greater risk of predation compared to receivers of signals without these properties. We review recent empirical evidence from a variety of taxa that supports the hypothesis that receivers (including heterospecific prey) are aware of these risks and that they modify their behaviour to balance the risks against the benefits of receiving under predation threat. We also discuss the wider implications of risky receiving for receiving and signalling behaviour in prey, as well as for the prey's predators.

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