Can convict Cichlids (Amatitlania siquia) socially learn the degree of predation risk associated with novel visual cues in their environment?
ABSTRACT: For many animals, the ability to distinguish cues indicative of predation risk from cues unrelated to predation risk is not entirely innate, but rather is learned and improved with experience. Two pathways to such learning are possible. First, an animal could initially express antipredator behaviour toward a wide range of cues and subsequently learn which of those cues are non-threatening. Alternatively, it could initially express no antipredator behaviour toward a wide range of cues and subsequently learn which of them are threatening. While the learned recognition of threatening cues may occur either through personal interaction with a cue (asocial learning) or through observation of the behaviour of social companions toward a cue (social learning), the learned recognition of non-threatening cues seems to occur exclusively through habituation, a form of asocial learning. Here, we tested whether convict cichlid fish (Amatitlaniasiquia) can socially learn to recognize visual cues in their environment as either threatening or non-threatening. We exposed juvenile convict cichlids simultaneously to a novel visual cue and one of three (visual) social cues: a social cue indicative of non-risk (the sight of conspecifics that had previously been habituated to the novel cue), a social cue indicative of predation risk (the sight of conspecifics trained to fear the novel cue), or a control treatment with no social cue. The subsequent response of focal fish, when presented with the novel cue alone, was not influenced by the social cue that they had previously witnessed. We therefore did not find evidence that convict cichlids in our study could use social learning to recognize novel visual cues as either threatening or non-threatening. We consider alternative explanations for our findings.
Project description:In aquatic environments, uninjured prey escaping a predator release chemical disturbance cues into the water. However, it is unknown whether these cues are a simple physiological by-product of increased activity or whether they represent a social signal that is under some control by the sender. Here, we exposed wood frog tadpoles (Lithobates sylvaticus) to either a high or low background risk environment and tested their responses to disturbance cues (or control cues) produced by tadpoles from high-risk or low-risk backgrounds. We found an interaction between risk levels associated with the cue donor and cue recipient. While disturbance cues from low-risk donors did not elicit an antipredator response in low-risk receivers, they did in high-risk receivers. In addition, disturbance cues from high-risk donors elicited a marked antipredator response in both low- and high-risk receivers. The response of high-risk receivers to disturbance cues from high-risk donors was commensurate with other treatments, indicating an all-or-nothing response. Our study provides evidence of differential production and perception of social cues and provides insights into their function and evolution in aquatic vertebrates. Given the widespread nature of disturbance cues in aquatic prey, there may exist a social signalling system that remains virtually unexplored by ecologists.
Project description:In aquatic environments, many prey animals possess damage-released chemical alarm cues that elicit antipredator behaviours in responsive con- and heterospecifics. Despite considerable study, the selective advantage of alarm cues remains unclear. In an attempt to investigate one of the more promising hypotheses concerning the evolution of alarm cues, we examined whether the cue functions in a fashion analogous to the distress vocalizations emitted by many terrestrial animals. Our results suggest that chemical alarm cues in damselfish (Pomacentridae) may have evolved to benefit the cue sender by attracting secondary predators who disrupt the predation event, allowing the prey a greater chance to escape. The coral reef piscivore, the dusky dottyback (Pseudochromis fuscus), chemically eavesdrops on predation events and uses chemical alarm cues from fish prey (lemon damselfish; Pomacentrus moluccensis) in an attempt to find and steal prey from primary predators. Field studies showed that Ps. fuscus aggregate at sites where prey alarm cue has been experimentally released. Furthermore, secondary predators attempted to steal captured prey of primary predators in laboratory trials and enhanced prey escape chances by 35-40%. These results are the first, to the best of our knowledge, to demonstrate a mechanism by which marine fish may benefit from the production and release of alarm cues, and highlight the complex and important role that semiochemicals play in marine predator-prey interactions.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Coordinated movement in social animal groups via social learning facilitates foraging activity. Few studies have examined the behavioral cause-and-effect between group members that mediates this social learning. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We first established a behavioral paradigm for visual food learning using medaka fish and demonstrated that a single fish can learn to associate a visual cue with a food reward. Grouped medaka fish (6 fish) learn to respond to the visual cue more rapidly than a single fish, indicating that medaka fish undergo social learning. We then established a data-mining method based on Kullback-Leibler divergence (KLD) to search for candidate behaviors that induce alignment and found that high-speed movement of a focal fish tended to induce alignment of the other members locally and transiently under free-swimming conditions without presentation of a visual cue. The high-speed movement of the informed and trained fish during visual cue presentation appeared to facilitate the alignment of naïve fish in response to some visual cues, thereby mediating social learning. Compared with naïve fish, the informed fish had a higher tendency to induce alignment of other naïve fish under free-swimming conditions without visual cue presentation, suggesting the involvement of individual recognition in social learning. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Behavioral cause-and-effect studies of the high-speed movement between fish group members will contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of social behaviors. The data-mining method used in the present study is a powerful method to search for candidates factors associated with inter-individual interactions using a dataset for time-series coordinate data of individuals.
Project description:Predators alter prey populations via direct lethality (density-mediated effects), but in many taxa, the indirect nonlethal threat of predation may be almost as strong an effect, altering phenotypically plastic traits such as prey morphology, behavior, and life history (trait-mediated effects). There are costs to antipredator defenses and the strength of prey responses to cues of predation likely depends on both the perceived level of risk and food availability.The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that the costs of nonlethal trait-mediated interactions impacting larvae can have carryover effects that alter life-history traits, adult characteristics, and ultimately population dynamics.The effects of Toxorhynchites rutilus kairomones and chemical alarm cues on Aedes triseriatus were assessed in a two-level factorial design manipulating nutrient level (low or high) and chemical cues of predation (present or absent).Nonlethal chemical cues of predation significantly decreased female survivorship and significantly decreased female size. Females emerged as adults significantly earlier when exposed to predation cues when there was high nutrient availability. When raised in the low nutrient treatment and exposed to predator cues, adult females had 2.1 times the hazard of death compared to high nutrient-no predator cues. Females raised in the high nutrient and predator cue treatment blood fed sooner than did females from other combinations.Fear of predation can substantially alter prey life-history traits and behavior, which can cascade into dramatic population, community, and ecosystem effects. Exposure to predator cues significantly decreased the estimated cohort rate of increase, potentially altering the expected population density of the next generation.
Project description:Social learning has been documented in a wide diversity of animals. In free-living animals, however, it has been difficult to discern whether animals learn socially by observing other group members or asocially by acquiring a new behaviour independently. We addressed this challenge by developing network-based diffusion analysis (NBDA), which analyses the spread of traits through animal groups and takes into account that social network structure directs social learning opportunities. NBDA fits agent-based models of social and asocial learning to the observed data using maximum-likelihood estimation. The underlying learning mechanism can then be identified using model selection based on the Akaike information criterion. We tested our method with artificially created learning data that are based on a real-world co-feeding network of macaques. NBDA is better able to discriminate between social and asocial learning in comparison with diffusion curve analysis, the main method that was previously applied in this context. NBDA thus offers a new, more reliable statistical test of learning mechanisms. In addition, it can be used to address a wide range of questions related to social learning, such as identifying behavioural strategies used by animals when deciding whom to copy.
Project description:To optimally manage an environment with predators, prey must correctly distinguish between cues that are risky and cues that are safe. Even a specific cue that is safe in one area or at a certain time may be dangerous in other situations, and vice versa. Latent inhibition is a cognitive mechanism by which animals fail to learn that a stimulus as risky because they have already learned it as non-threatening via previous encounters with the stimulus in the absence of negative consequences. Here, we demonstrate that latent inhibition of predator-recognition learning in wood frog tadpoles, Lithobates sylvaticus, depends on the timing of their learning opportunities. For 6 days, tadpoles were exposed daily to an initially novel stimulus (salamander odour), either in the morning (11.00-13.00 h) or evening (16.00-18.00 h). The following day, we conditioned tadpoles to recognize the salamander odour as a predator by pairing it with injured tadpole cues, either at the same time as their previous experience or at the opposite time. When tested the following day, latent inhibition occurred under each scenario where the timing of conditioning matched the timing of the pre-exposure. However, tadpoles tested in the morning showed learned fright responses when conditioned in the morning if their pre-exposure had occurred in the evening, whereas individuals tested in the evening showed learned fright responses when conditioned in the evening if their pre-exposure had occurred in the morning. This is the first report of time-dependent latent inhibition of predator-recognition learning, which is likely an important mechanism for correctly managing predation risk and safety.
Project description:Culture evolution requires both modification and faithful replication of behaviour, thus it is essential to understand how individuals choose between social and asocial learning. In a quasi-experimental design, 3- and 5-year-olds (176), and adults (52) were presented individually with two novel artificial fruits, and told of the apparatus' relative difficulty (easy versus hard). Participants were asked if they wanted to attempt the task themselves or watch an experimenter attempt it first; and then had their preference either met or violated. A significant proportion of children and adults (74%) chose to learn socially. For children, this request was efficient, as observing a demonstration made them significantly quicker at the task than learning asocially. However, for 5-year-olds, children who selected asocial learning were also found to be highly efficient at the task, showing that by 5 years children are selective in choosing a learning strategy that is effective for them. Adults further evidenced this trend, and also showed selectivity based on task difficulty. This is the first study to examine the rates, performance outcomes and developmental trajectory of preferences in asocial and social learning, ultimately informing our understanding of innovation.
Project description:Chemical communication relating to predation risk is a trait common among fish species. Prey fish under threat of predation can signal risk to conspecific fish, which then exhibit defensive responses. Fish also assess predation risk by visual cues and change their behavior accordingly. Here, we explored whether these behavioral changes act as visual alarm signals to conspecific fish that are not initially under risk. We show that shoals of zebrafish (Danio rerio) visually exposed to a predator display antipredator behaviors. In addition, these defensive maneuvers trigger antipredator reactions in conspecifics and, concomitantly, stimulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-interrenal axis, leading to cortisol increase. Thus, we conclude that zebrafish defensive behaviors act as visual alarm cues that induce antipredator and stress response in conspecific fish.
Project description:The ability to acquire a behavior can be facilitated by exposure to a conspecific demonstrator. Such social learning occurs under a range of conditions in nature. Here, we tested the idea that social learning can benefit from any available sensory cue, thereby permitting learning under different natural conditions. The ability of naïve gerbils to learn a sound discrimination task following 5 days of exposure adjacent to a demonstrator gerbil was tested in the presence or absence of visual cues. Naïve gerbils acquired the task significantly faster in either condition, as compared to controls. We also found that exposure to a demonstrator was more potent in facilitating learning, as compared to exposure to the sounds used to perform the discrimination task. Therefore, social learning was found to be flexible and equally efficient in the auditory or visual domains.
Project description:Due to the costs of antipredator behaviour, prey have the ability to finely modulate their response according to the risk they have experienced, and adjust it over different scales of ecological time. Information on which to base their responses can be obtained from direct experience, but also indirectly from nearby conspecifics. In aquatic environments, alarm cues from injured conspecifics are an important and reliable source of information about current predation risk. We used wood frog tadpoles, Lithobates sylvaticus, to investigate whether prey responses to alarm cues match the level of background predation risk experienced by injured conspecifics. We found that tadpoles exposed to alarm cues from conspecifics raised in a high-risk environment showed a stronger antipredator response and an enhanced learned response to novel predators, when compared with tadpoles exposed to alarm cues from conspecifics raised in a low-risk environment. Alarm cues not only allow prey to cope with an ongoing predation event, but also to adjust their behaviour to match background risk in the environment.