The protective value of a defensive display varies with the experience of wild predators
Umbers, K. D. L., White, T. E., De Bona, S., Haff, T., Ryeland, J., Drinkwater, E., & Mappes, J. (2019). The protective value of a defensive display varies with the experience of wild predators. Scientific Reports, 9, 463. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-36995-9
Published inScientific Reports
DisciplineEkologia ja evoluutiobiologia
© The Authors 2019
Predation has driven the evolution of diverse adaptations for defence among prey, and one striking example is the deimatic display. While such displays can resemble, or indeed co-occur with, aposematic ‘warning’ signals, theory suggests deimatic displays may function independently of predator learning. The survival value of deimatic displays against wild predators has not been tested before. Here we used the mountain katydid Acripeza reticulata to test the efficacy of a putative deimatic display in the wild. Mountain katydids have a complex defence strategy; they are camouflaged at rest, but reveal a striking red-, blue-, and black-banded abdomen when attacked. We presented live katydids to sympatric (experienced) and allopatric (naive) natural predators, the Australian magpie Cracticus tibicen, and observed bird reactions and katydid behaviors and survival during repeated interactions. The efficacy of the katydids’ defence differed with predator experience. Their survival was greatest when faced with naïve predators, which provided clear evidence of the protective value of the display. In contrast, katydid survival was consistently less likely when facing experienced predators. Our results suggest that sympatric predators have learned to attack and consume mountain katydids despite their complex defense, and that their post-attack display can be an effective deterrent, particularly against naïve predators. These results suggest that deimatism does not require predator learning to afford protection, but that a predator can learn to expect the display and subsequently avoid it or ignore it. That sympatric predators learn to ignore the defense is a possible explanation for the mountain katydid’s counter-intuitive behavior of revealing warning colors only after tactile stimuli from predator attack. ...