Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Predator eavesdropping in a mixed-species environment: how prey species may use grouping, confusion, and the cocktail party effect to reduce predator detection

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Eben Goodale, Graeme D. Ruxton, Guy Beauchamp

School/Research organisations

Abstract

The field of predator eavesdropping concentrates on the detection by a predator or parasite of signals that prey direct at conspecifics, and the subsequent evolution by prey to avoid or lessen such detection. Here, we first point out that signaling prey species are often found in mixed-species moving groups or stationary aggregations, and ask the question of how simultaneous signaling, by members of one species or more, might affect predator eavesdropping behavior and the composition of the groups themselves. The detection risk of prey species will be affected by the other species they associate with, and prey should generally avoid joining a group with more detectable species. Yet prey may select to join other species that are preferred by predators, diluting their own risk of attack, as long as that does not lead to substantially greater detection and thereby increased predation. We next review the evidence that prey grouping and collective responses when attacked can confuse predators, leading to lower capture rates. Evidence for this confusion effect mostly involves visually orienting predators. We then ask if a similar phenomenon could occur when animals in a group simultaneously send acoustic signals, and find relevant evidence for predator confusion under such situations in the literature associated with the "cocktail party effect". As confusion is heightened by similarities among mixed-species group members, this provides a force at ecological or evolutionary timescales to make species that associate in groups, and their signals, more similar to each other. However, heterogeneous mixed-species groups may be favored if species are differentially preferred as prey. We suggest experiments to examine whether the success rates of acoustically orienting predators depend on the group size of their mixed-species prey. More observations on the relative positions of conspecifics and heterospecifics in space, and the temporal association of their signals, will also increase our understanding of the relationship between mixed-species grouping and predator eavesdropping.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number141
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019

    Research areas

  • Animal sociality, Cocktail party problem, Communication networks, Confusion effect, Group living, Mixed-species choruses, Mixed-species groups, Predator eavesdropping

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Birdsbesafe® collar cover reduces bird predation by domestic cats (Felis catus)

    Pemberton, C. & Ruxton, G. D., 8 Oct 2019, In : Journal of Zoology. Early View

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: a review

    der Weduwen, D. & Ruxton, G. D., Oct 2019, In : Biological Reviews. 94, 5, p. 1830-1838 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Deconstructing collective building in social insects: implications for ecological adaptation and evolution

    Invernizzi, E. & Ruxton, G. D., 8 Aug 2019, In : Insectes Sociaux. First Online, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  4. The Hermans–Rasson test as a powerful alternative to the Rayleigh test for circular statistics in biology

    Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D. & Malkemper, E. P., 7 Aug 2019, In : BMC Ecology. 19, 8 p., 30.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. A theory for investment across defences triggered at different stages of a predator-prey encounter

    Wang, L., Ruxton, G. D., Cornell, S. J., Speed, M. P. & Broom, M., 21 Jul 2019, In : Journal of Theoretical Biology. 473, p. 9-19 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Member of editorial board)
    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  2. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (Journal)

    David Ellard Keith Ferrier (Member of editorial board)
    2014 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

Related by journal

  1. Diving behavior and fine-scale kinematics of free-ranging Risso’s dolphins foraging in shallow and deep-water habitats

    Arranz, P., Benoit-Bird, K., Friedlaender, A. S., Hazen, E. L., Goldbogen, J. A., Stimpert, A. K., De Ruiter, S. L., Calambokidis, J., Southall, B., Fahlman, A. & Tyack, P. L., 12 Mar 2019, In : Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7, 15 p., 53.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Individual spatial consistency and dietary flexibility in the migratory behavior of northern gannets wintering in the Northeast Atlantic

    Grecian, W. J., Williams, H. J., Votier, S. C., Bearhop, S., Cleasby, I. R., Grémillet, D., Hamer, K. C., Le Nuz, M., Lescroël, A., Newton, J., Patrick, S. C., Phillips, R. A., Wakefield, E. D. & Bodey, T. W., 12 Jun 2019, In : Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7, 11 p., 214.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Ontogenetic variation in movements and depth use, and evidence of partial migration in a benthopelagic elasmobranch

    Thorburn, J., Neat, F., Burrett, I., Henry, L-A., Bailey, D. M., Jones, C. S. & Noble, L. R., 25 Sep 2019, In : Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7, 14 p., 353.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Sediment dynamics of natural and restored Bolboschoenus maritimus saltmarsh

    Taylor, B. W., Paterson, D. M. & Baxter, J. M., 26 Jun 2019, In : Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7, 10 p., 237.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 258994480

Top