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Determining the fitness consequences of anti-predation behaviour

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Abstract

Any animal whose form or behavior facilitates the avoidance of predators or escape when attacked by predators will have a greater probability of surviving to breed and therefore greater probability of producing offspring (i.e., fitness). Although in theory the fitness consequences of any antipredation behavior can simply be measured by the resultant probability of survival or death, determining the functional significance of antipredation behavior presents a surprising problem. In this review we draw attention to the problem that fitness consequences of antipredation behaviors cannot be determined without considering the potential for reduction of predation risk, or increased reproductive output, through other compensatory behaviors than the behaviors under study. We believe we have reached the limits of what we can ever understand about the ecological effects of antipredation behavior from empirical studies that simply correlate a single behavior with an apparent fitness consequence. Future empirical studies must involve many behaviors to consider the range of potential compensation to predation risk. This is because antipredation behaviors are a composite of many behaviors that an animal can adjust to accomplish its ends. We show that observed variation in antipredation behavior does not have to reflect fitness and we demonstrate that few studies can draw unambiguous conclusions about the fitness consequences of antipredation behavior. Lastly, we provide suggestions of how future research should best be targeted so that, even in the absence of death rates or changes in reproductive output, reasonable inferences of the fitness consequences of antipredation behaviors can be made.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-956
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2005

    Research areas

  • antipredation behaviors, fitness, predation risk compensation, predator-prey interaction, REDSHANK TRINGA-TOTANUS, PREDATOR-PREY INTERACTIONS, ACCIPITER-NISUS PREDATION, ENERGY ACQUISITION RATES, WHOLE-LAKE EXPERIMENTS, TRADE-OFFS, LIFE-HISTORY, FOOD AVAILABILITY, GROUP-SIZE, POPULATION CONSEQUENCES

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