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Data from: Defensive posture in a terrestrial salamander deflects predatory strikes irrespective of body size

Citation

Myette, Alexander; Murray, Dennis; Hossie, Thomas (2019), Data from: Defensive posture in a terrestrial salamander deflects predatory strikes irrespective of body size, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b63202v

Abstract

A wide variety of prey use defensive postures as a means of protection from predators. Many salamanders engage in broadly similar defensive postures, which may function as a warning signal and reduce the probability of attack, or may deflect predator attacks away from vital body parts. The extent to which these strategies (i.e. aposematism and deflection) act exclusively or synergistically, however, remains unknown. We deployed clay salamanders in the field, manipulating size (small, large) and posture (resting, defensive), and documented attack rates across three predator types. Competing risks analysis revealed that attack rates were affected by model size, deployment period, and leaf litter depth at the site of deployment, whereas model posture had no significant effect. Model size and posture did not interact, indicating that defensive posture was ineffective in deterring attack irrespective of prey size. Model prey in the defensive posture received significantly more attacks on the tail irrespective of size, and the defensive posture was more effective at deflecting avian attacks compared to mammal predation. We conclude that defensive posture increases tail conspicuousness without increasing predation risk, and primarily functions to deflect attacks away from vital body parts. The efficacy of defection may be further increased by tail undulation, however our use of static models means that we cannot exclude aposematic or deimatic functions for such movements. Our results provide important support for the deflection hypothesis in explaining antipredator behavior, and thereby set the stage for additional research targeting the functionality of attack deflection in natural predator-prey encounters.

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