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Data from: To call or not to call: parents assess the vulnerability of their young before warning them about predators

Citation

Haff, Tonya M.; Magrath, Robert D. (2013), Data from: To call or not to call: parents assess the vulnerability of their young before warning them about predators, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.234d8

Abstract

Communication about predators can reveal the effect of both conspecific and heterospecific audiences on signalling strategy, providing insight into signal function and animal cognition. In species that alarm call to their young, parents face a fundamental dilemma: calling can silence noisy offspring and so make them less likely to be overheard, but can also alert predators that young are nearby. Parents could resolve this dilemma by being sensitive to the current vulnerability of offspring, and calling only when young are most at risk. Testing whether offspring vulnerability affects parental strategy has proved difficult, however, because more vulnerable broods are often also more valuable. We tested experimentally whether parent white-browed scrubwren, Sericornis frontalis, assessed brood noisiness when alarm calling. When a model predator was nearby, parents gave more alarm calls when playbacks simulated noisy broods, yet brood noisiness did not affect adult calling when only a control model was present. Parents were therefore sensitive to the tradeoff between silencing young and alerting predators to the presence of nests. Our study demonstrates that receiver vulnerability can affect signalling decisions in species other than primates.

Usage Notes

Location

Canberra
Australia