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Abbey-Lee, Robin N.; Kaiser, Aurelien; Mouchet, Alexia; Dingemanse, Niels J. (2016): Immediate and carry-over effects of perceived predation risk on communication behavior in wild birds. In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 27, No. 3: pp. 708-716
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Predation induces strong selection on phenotypic traits, affecting prey via consumptive and nonconsumptive effects. Communication is important for territorial behavior, but can increase susceptibility to predators. Therefore, predation risk should influence prey communication patterns, territoriality, and fitness. We evaluated how this trade-off is resolved via 2 manipulations of perceived predation risk using audio playback in wild great tits (Parus major). In the first experiment, we examined the immediate response of individuals to playback;the second experiment, replicated across 2 years, examined both immediate and carry-over effects (over days) of playback broadcast for a 5-month period (March-July) in 12 nest box populations. Birds exposed to predator sounds showed decreased singing and increased alarming compared to controls, both immediately and on days without play back exposure (carry-over effects). Perceived predation risk did not affect how birds responded to simulated territory intrusions. In combination, these studies' findings imply that individuals perceive predator vocalizations as "risky" up to days after exposure to predator cues, and adjust their behavior to minimize this risk. However, the lack of effects on territorial aggression implies that individuals are able to weigh the costs of predation against the benefits of each type of vocal behavior. Acknowledging that context changes the relative costs and benefits of antipredator behavior has important consequences for understanding predator-prey dynamics.