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Data from: The sentinel behaviour of Arabian babbler floaters

Cite this dataset

Ostreiher, Roni; Heifetz, Aviad (2017). Data from: The sentinel behaviour of Arabian babbler floaters [Dataset]. Dryad.


The sentinel behaviour of 38 Arabian babbler adult floaters, who lived alone within a territory belonging to a foreign group, was studied and compared with their own sentinel behaviour in the past, when they were group members. All floaters acted as sentinels and uttered ‘alarm calls’. This suggests that sentinel activity is due at least, in part, to selfish motives. Floaters sentinelled less than they did as group members, with the decrease in sentinel activity sharper for ex-dominants than for ex-subordinates. One possible explanation for these differences is that sentinel activity is aimed not only at detecting predators, but also at detecting foreign conspecifics. Within a group, the latter incentive is stronger for breeding dominants than for subordinates, whereas all floaters alike may be trying to detect the owners of the territory in which they were roaming but also to avoid being detected by them. Other possible explanations are that floaters have less time and energy for sentinel activity because they are weaker or because foraging is more difficult in a foreign territory. This may be especially so for dominants who used to enjoy privileged access to food in their group. No significant difference was found in the rate of sentinels' ‘alarm calls’ between floaters and group members, suggesting that their main purpose is predator–prey communication, of which warning groupmates may be a side benefit.

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