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Exposure to a novel predator induces visual predator recognition by naïve prey

Cite this dataset

Steindler, Lisa Anna (2020). Exposure to a novel predator induces visual predator recognition by naïve prey [Dataset]. Dryad.


The ‘life-dinner principle’ posits that there is greater selection pressure on the species that have more to lose in an interaction. Thus, based on the asymmetry within predator-prey interactions there is an advantage for prey to learn quickly, especially in response to novel, introduced predators.  Here we test the ‘learned recognition’ hypothesis that posits that naïve prey species’ ability to recognize and respond to introduced predators can be induced through experience. We quantified the behavioural response of initially predator naïve burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) that had been living in the presence (for 8 - 15 months) and absence of an introduced predator (feral cats—Felis catus) to models of cats, a herbivore (rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)), novel object (plastic bucket) and no object (control). We expected that if bettongs recognized cats as a threat they would be more wary in the presence of cat models than either rabbit models, buckets or the control. Bettongs living without predators did not modify their behaviour in response to the cat model, but spent more time cautiously approaching the rabbit model compared to the control. However, bettongs living with cats spent more time cautiously approaching the cat model compared to the rabbit, bucket and control. Our results are consistent with the learned recognition hypothesis which suggests that a predator-naïve prey species ability to recognize novel predators is inducible through experience. Our finding suggests that antipredator responses of reintroduced species could be improved prior to release by exposing them to predators under carefully controlled conditions.