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Crying wolf to a predator: Deceptive vocal mimicry by a bird protecting young

Igic, Branislav; McLachlan, Jessica; Lehtinen, Inkeri; Magrath, Robert D

Description

Animals often mimic dangerous or toxic species to deter predators; however, mimicry of such species may not always be possible and mimicry of benign species seems unlikely to confer anti-predator benefits. We reveal a system in which a bird mimics the alarm calls of harmless species to fool a predator 40 times its size and protect its offspring against attack. Our experiments revealed that brown thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) mimic a chorus of other species’ aerial alarm calls, a cue of an...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorIgic, Branislav
dc.contributor.authorMcLachlan, Jessica
dc.contributor.authorLehtinen, Inkeri
dc.contributor.authorMagrath, Robert D
dc.date.accessioned2015-12-13T22:17:27Z
dc.identifier.issn0962-8452
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/71134
dc.description.abstractAnimals often mimic dangerous or toxic species to deter predators; however, mimicry of such species may not always be possible and mimicry of benign species seems unlikely to confer anti-predator benefits. We reveal a system in which a bird mimics the alarm calls of harmless species to fool a predator 40 times its size and protect its offspring against attack. Our experiments revealed that brown thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) mimic a chorus of other species’ aerial alarm calls, a cue of an Accipiter hawk in flight, when predators attack their nest. The absence of any flying predators in this context implies that these alarms convey deceptive information about the type of danger present. Experiments on the primary nest predators of thornbills, pied currawongs (Strepera graculina), revealed that the predators treat these alarms as if they themselves are threatened by flying hawks, either by scanning the sky for danger or fleeing, confirming a deceptive function. In turn, these distractions delay attack and provide thornbill nestlings with an opportunity to escape. This sophisticated defence strategy exploits the complex web of interactions among multiple species across several trophic levels, and in particular exploits a predator’s ability to eavesdrop on and respond appropriately to heterospecific alarm calls. Our findings demonstrate that prey can fool predators by deceptively mimicking alarm calls of harmless species, suggesting that defensive mimicry could be more widespread because of indirect effects on predators within a web of eavesdropping.
dc.publisherRoyal Society of London
dc.sourceProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
dc.titleCrying wolf to a predator: Deceptive vocal mimicry by a bird protecting young
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.identifier.citationvolume282
dc.date.issued2015
local.identifier.absfor060201 - Behavioural Ecology
local.identifier.ariespublicationa383154xPUB2572
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationIgic, Branislav, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationMcLachlan, Jessica, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, ANU
local.contributor.affiliationLehtinen, Inkeri, University of Helsinki
local.contributor.affiliationMagrath, Robert D, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, ANU
local.description.embargo2037-12-31
local.bibliographicCitation.issue1809
local.bibliographicCitation.startpage1
local.bibliographicCitation.lastpage7
local.identifier.doi10.1098/rspb.2015.0798
local.identifier.absseo970106 - Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
dc.date.updated2015-12-11T07:34:16Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-84931281777
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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