TitleLearned recognition of intraspecific predators in larval long-toed salamanders Ambystoma macrodactylum
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsWildy, EL, Blaustein, AR
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The ability of prey to detect predators and respond accordingly is critical to their survival. The use of chemical cues by animals in predator detection has been widely documented. In many cases, predator recognition is facilitated by the release of alarm cues from conspecific victims. Alarm cues elicit anti-predator behavior in many species, which can reduce their risk of being attacked. It has been previously demonstrated that adult long-toed salamanders, Ambystoma macrodactylum, exhibit an alarm response to chemical cues from injured conspecifics. However, whether this response exists in the larval stage of this species and whether it is an innate or a learned condition is unknown. In the current study, we examined the alarm response of naive (i.e. lab-reared) larval long-toed salamanders. We conducted a series of behavioral trials during which we quantified the level of activity and spatial avoidance of hungry and satiated focal larvae to water conditioned by an injured conspecific, a cannibal that had recently been fed a conspecific or a non-cannibal that was recently fed a diet of Tubifex worms. Focal larvae neither reduced their activity nor spatially avoided the area of the stimulus in either treatment when satiated, and exhibited increased activity towards the cannibal stimulus when hungry. We regard this latter behavior as a feeding response. Together these results suggest that an antipredator response to injured conspecifics and to cannibalistic conspecifics is absent in naive larvae. Previous studies have shown that experienced wild captured salamanders do show a response to cannibalistic conspecifics. Therefore, we conducted an additional experiment examining whether larvae can learn to exhibit antipredator behavior in response to cues from cannibalized conspecifics. We exposed larvae to visual, chemical and tactile cues of stimulus animals that were actively foraging on conspecifics (experienced) or a diet of Tubifex (naive treatment). In subsequent behavioral treatments, experienced larvae significantly reduced their activity compared to naive larvae in response to chemical cues of cannibals that had recently consumed conspecifics. We suggest that this behavior is a response to alarm cues released by consumed conspecifics that may have labeled the cannibal. Furthermore, over time, interactions with cannibals may cause potential prey larvae to learn to avoid cannibals regardless of their recent diet.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000169626300002