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.
- Received July 1, 2016.
- Accepted July 27, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.