Parameterising a public good : how experiments on predation can be used to predict cheat frequencies
Jones, R. S., Speed, M. P., & Mappes, J. (2016). Parameterising a public good : how experiments on predation can be used to predict cheat frequencies. Evolutionary Ecology, 30(5), 825-840. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-016-9851-6
Published inEvolutionary Ecology
DisciplineEkologia ja evoluutiobiologiaBiologisten vuorovaikutusten huippututkimusyksikköEcology and Evolutionary BiologyCentre of Excellence in Biological Interactions Research
© The Author(s) 2016
Chemical defence is superficially easy to understand as a means for individuals to protect themselves from enemies. The evolution of chemical defence is however potentially complex because such defences may cause the generation of a public good, protecting members of the population as a whole as well as individuals that deploy toxins defensively. If a public good of protection exists, it may be exploited and degraded by “cheats” that do not invest in defence. This can in turn lead to complex frequency (and density) dependent effects in toxin evolution. To investigate this we used ecologically relevant predators (Great tits, Parus major) and examined how individual and public benefits vary depending on the frequency of non-defended “cheating” prey and their spatial distribution. We found that the public benefit, of reduced attack probability, increased with increasing frequency of defended individuals. In contrast the individual benefit of chemical defence, measured as increased chance of rejection during an attack before injury, did not vary with the frequency of defended forms. Hence the selective dynamics of these two levels of benefits responded differently to the frequency of defended forms. Surprisingly, given the strong associations of chemical defences and grouping in animals, large aggregations did not help individuals in the group regardless of their defence status. The explanation for the result, may be that in our experiment birds did not have information about other potential aggregations (i.e. set up was sequential) and thus their giving up density was lower compared to the situations where set ups were simultaneous. We use behavioural data of our predators to construct a simple model of toxin evolution which can make quantitative predictions about the frequencies to which defence cheats evolve. We use this model to discuss how toxin evolution can be investigated in the wild and in laboratory settings. ...