Cliff et al. - 2022 - Rapid gain and loss of predator recognition by an evolutionarily naïve lizard.pdf (871.74 kB)
Rapid gain and loss of predator recognition by an evolutionarily naive lizard
journal contributionposted on 2023-11-20, 01:45 authored by Hannah B Cliff, Menna JonesMenna Jones, Christopher JohnsonChristopher Johnson, Roger P Pech, Bart T Biemans, Leon BarmutaLeon Barmuta, Grant L Norbury
The introduction of mammalian predators often results in loss of native biodiversity due to naiveté of native prey to novel predators. In New Zealand, an island system with virtually no native mammalian predators, introduced mammalian predators threaten a large proportion of the native fauna. A critical step in adapting to introduced predators is the ability to recognize and respond to a novel predation threat. Whether New Zealand's lizards can do this has received little attention. We compared the basking behaviour of native McCann's skinks (Oligosoma maccanni) when exposed to a live cat (Felis catus), cat body odour, a model raptor (representing a coevolved predator) or procedural controls. We inferred predator recognition from reductions in individual basking and higher selection for basking sites with greater refuge availability. We tested these behavioural responses for two skink populations: one from an area with high abundance of mammalian predators including feral cats and the other from a fenced conservation reserve where predators have been excluded for over 10 years (3–4 skink generations). Skinks from the high-predator population reduced basking when exposed to cat and raptor cues, whereas skinks from the predator-free population did not. These results suggest that within approximately 150 years of exposure to novel predators, McCann's skinks might be able to recognize the threat posed by invasive mammals. However, they also demonstrate that predator recognition and antipredator behaviours may not necessarily be retained once gained. The rapid loss of basking-related antipredator behaviours might reflect the high fitness costs of reduced basking for this species. Our results indicate that the behavioural response of skinks is flexible and that skinks may maximize individual fitness by balancing the risk of predation with the costs of antipredator behaviours.
Publication titleAUSTRAL ECOLOGY