The trade-off between predation risk and the need to feed is one of the major constraints animals have to cope with. Virtually all animals have a higher risk of being preyed upon when being active (e.g., searching for food or mating partners), compared with being inactive (e.g., staying at their burrows, nests, etc.). Yet, staying safe leads to a higher risk of starvation and may reduce reproductive success and body growth. Hence selection on behaviour optimizing the search, handling and digestion of food while avoiding the risk of predation is strong and should lead to strategies maximising survival chances and inclusive fitness. These facts call for integrative studies manipulating both, abundance of food and predation risk in a factorial set up, analysing the effects of both factors on behaviour and physiological parameters. We present results of a 2 × 2 factorial experiment, manipulating risk of predation and food abundance in guppies. We found that the two factors have an additive effect on body growth, but that predation risk by a pike cichlid is the main factor affecting the expression of behavioural strategies in guppies. Low food availability and high predation risk led to lower body growth. High predation risk affected swimming depth and risk sensitivity of guppies and might represent adaptive behavioural changes to the environmental context experienced in early life. Our study shows that integrative studies, analysing multiple interdependent and interconnected factors in the wild and in the lab are needed to further understand animal behaviour and development.
Igor Luis Kaefer;
Albertina Pimentel Lima
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Because of its close relationship with the process of evolutionary differentiation, it is expected that geographic variability in acoustic sexual traits should be greater among than within populations. This is particularly expected in organisms with typically high population genetic structure and low dispersal abilities, such as anuran amphibians. We studied the acoustic traits of the advertisement call in the small-sized dendrobatoid frog Allobates paleovarzensis through its range in Central Amazonia. We accessed the variability of call traits from the within-male to the among-population levels, and evaluated the degree of stereotypy of the call characteristics. Call variability had comparable magnitudes within and among populations, and was independent of the degree of stereotypy of call measurements. Therefore, none of the call traits stood out as a potential cue for discrimination between populations. Spectral call measurements were static and strongly related with body size, which explained between 30 and 35% of the variation of these acoustic traits. Temporal characters of the notes were dynamic and influenced by environmental temperature (e.g., 27% of note rate variation), whilst temporal measurements of the entire calls were not related to the co-factors analysed. Both spectral and temporal call traits varied among populations and between sides of the Amazon River. Our results also indicate that body size and sampling site jointly affected the variability of the call traits. However, geographic distances among populations and the river barrier had no significant effect on the overall acoustic variation, indicating that local stabilising selective forces may be important in the process of call differentiation.
Ken A. Otter
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In vocal learners, such as songbirds, the ability to maintain an internal acoustic structure between songs during a chorus seems to be positively correlated with the singer’s condition and may, therefore, represent a reliable measure of the singer’s condition. For instance, some internal ratios in the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) fee-bee song are more stable in the song of dominant males than in the song of subordinate males, suggesting that dominant birds are better at maintaining the internal song structure than subordinate males. Habitat quality is also known to affect the behaviour of this species. Birds settling in young forest have a lower song output and lower reproductive success than birds occupying mature forests, and it is suggested that those differences arise from differential food availability across habitats. As recent studies suggest that song performance can be altered by food limitation at the time of song learning, we explore whether habitat quality has a similar effect on the ability to maintain internal song structure as does social rank. We paired males by similar social rank, but who occupied different habitat types, and compared the consistency of male song within his dawn chorus. The ability to maintain an internal song structure of birds occupying young forests was consistently lower than birds occupying mature forests. Our results demonstrate that the same difference that exist in song structure between male differing in social rank also exist between males differing in the habitat in which they sing.
Michael W. Butler;
Matthew B. Toomey;
Kevin J. McGraw
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Many animals consume colorful foods, because bright coloration either enhances conspicuousness of food items or signals nutritional rewards. A comparatively under-studied aspect of food color preferences is the role of the background environment in shaping food detectability and choices. Previous work with house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), for example, showed that individuals preferred red and green food items and avoided yellow ones. However, this study of desert, ground-feeding birds was done with seeds presented against an artificial white background that is unlikely to reflect natural conditions. Therefore, we performed a similar experiment, but quantified selection of colorful foods using a different visual environment that better mimicked natural conditions. We mixed dark, inedible distractor pellets (i.e., analogous to natural desert sand and rocks) with sunflower kernels that were colored red, green, yellow, or orange to test for differences in foraging patterns by sex, age, and expression of male plumage coloration in non-molting house finches. This food presentation resulted in yellow seeds having a significantly greater chromatic, but not achromatic, contrast with the background than red or green seeds. Under these conditions, all birds consumed yellow, and to a lesser extent red, seeds most often, and both adult males and females had a strong preference for yellow kernels; adult males also tended to prefer green kernels, but females tended not to prefer green kernels. Juveniles showed no significant preferences for any seed color, and adult male plumage coloration was not related to seed color preference. Therefore, in contrast to studies using different foraging environments, house finches tended to prefer yellow seeds, supporting models that suggest that visual background and contrast may be more important than color per se in visually mediated foraging decisions of birds. Moreover, the fact that adult males and females differed in food color preference has not been reported previously in songbirds.
Social monogamy is a rare mating system among animals, occurring commonly only in birds. In long-lived birds, pair bonds may persist for several seasons in some species, while in others mate change occurs even when both partners are still alive. Here, we test predictions from the adaptive hypotheses for divorce, using long-term data (15 years) on mate change and reproductive success in a long-lived shorebird, the dunlin Calidris alpina. We found that about one quarter of the pairs divorced (23% of 126 breeding attempts). Among the divorcing females, six changed partner more than once (one female changed partner three times). Following divorce, females dispersed longer than males. Start of egg-laying (presumably reflecting arrival time to the breeding ground), previous breeding success, and male age or size did not seem to influence the occurrence of divorce. However, females that changed mate between consecutive breeding attempts achieved higher reproductive success. Moreover, this improvement appeared independent of breeding experience. Since we were unable to detect any effect of divorce on male reproductive success, our results suggest that divorce in the dunlin is best explained by the better option hypothesis.
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In monogamous birds, early male parental effort, such as nest building, may serve as a post-mating sexually-selected display allowing female assessment of male quality. We examined the functional significance of male nest building and the potential role of nest size as a sexually-selected signal in the red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena), a species with high mate fidelity. Time-activity budgets showed that no behaviour was performed exclusively by one sex in the pre-laying period, but males spent significantly more time nest building and were more often involved in aggressive intra- and interspecific interactions. Nest building in pairs attempting a second brood was also performed predominantly by males. Greater participation in nest construction by males allowed females to allocate more time to self-maintenance activities in the period prior to egg-laying. The positive relationship found between the relative contribution of males to nest building and later to brood provisioning indicates that male nest building is an honest indicator of future paternal effort. Males obtained copulations solicited by females proportionally to the time spent on nest building, and the extent of male participation in nest construction was of importance for explaining variation in clutch size. Nest size itself is not very likely to be sexually selected in red-necked grebes, as it was found to depend on nest site conditions such as water depth and exposure to wave action. We suggest that greater investment of males in energetically demanding pre-laying activities is functionally similar to post-mating courtship feeding; it constitutes males’ indirect contribution to clutch production and may help to negotiate the relative investment each sex makes in the different stages of the breeding cycle. The results support the idea that, in monogamous birds, naturally selected male characters related to parental care may evolve into important sexual signals to females, although not into extreme displays.
An algivorous cichlid, Variabilichromis moorii (Vm), defends permanent territories in Lake Tanganyika, Africa. A zoobenthivorous cichlid, Neolamprologus mustax (Nm), spends 60% of daylight hours foraging in Vm territories, from which other zoobenthivorous fishes are chased out and consequently which are much richer in prey animals than areas outside of Vm territories. We conducted a field experiment to examine whether Nm residents and non-residents received different degrees of attacks from Vm. Nm fish were caught in their territories, released at a point distant from these territories, and followed to observe interactions with Vm fish. The frequency of attacks received by the displaced Nm fish was greater than attacks received by Nm residents, indicating that Nm residents had easier access to Vm territories than non-residents did. A possible mechanism for this is reduced aggression of Vm towards Nm residents, as a result of the ‘dear enemy’ effect that has been reported in territorial contests between rivals. An alternative mechanism is that tolerance towards Nm differs among Vm fish and Nm residents selectively visit more tolerant Vm fish due to previous experience while non-residents randomly approach both tolerant and hostile Vm fish. The ability of Vm to discriminate between Nm residents and non-residents is essential to the former mechanism but not to the latter. To more specifically examine which mechanism works in the Vm-Nm commensal system, we will need to follow individually identified Vm fish interacting with Nm residents and non-residents.
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Dogs can learn effectively from a human demonstrator in detour tests as well as in different kinds of manipulative tasks. In this experiment we used a novel two-action device from which the target object (a ball) was obtained by tilting a tube either by pulling a rope attached to the end of the tube, or by directly pushing the end of the tube. Tube tilting was relatively easy for naïve companion dogs; therefore, the effect of the human demonstration aimed to alter or increase the dogs’ initial preference for tube pushing (according to the behaviour shown by naïve dogs in the absence of a human demonstrator). Our results have shown that subjects preferred the demonstrated action in the two-action test. After having witnessed the tube pushing demonstration, dogs performed significantly more tube pushing than the dogs in the rope pulling demonstration group. In contrast, dogs that observed the rope pulling demonstration, performed significantly more similar actions than the subjects of the other demonstration group. The ratio of rope pulling was significantly higher in the rope pulling demonstration group, than in the No Demo (control) group. The overall success of solving the task was also influenced by the social rank of the dog among its conspecific companions at home. Independently of the type of demonstration, dominant dogs solved the task significantly more often than the subordinate dogs did. There was no such difference in the No Demo group.This experiment has shown that a simple two-action device that does not require excessive pre-training, can be suitable for testing social learning in dogs. However, effects of social rank should be taken into account when social learning in dogs is being studied and tested, because dominant and subordinate dogs perform differently after observing a demonstrator.