Different reactions to aposematic prey in 2 geographically distant populations of great tits

Alice Exnerová*, Dana Ježová, Pavel Štys, Lucia Doktorovová, Bibiana Rojas, Johanna Mappes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Variation in predator behavior toward aposematic prey was frequently studied at interspecific and individual levels, but interpopulation differences have been neglected. Geographic differences in prey fauna offer an opportunity to test their implications for predator behavior. It can be expected that 1) predator populations inhabiting environments with high diversity of aposematic prey are more neophobic than those living in areas where aposematic prey are scarce, and 2) different levels of neophobia jointly with avoidance learning affect selection on aposematic prey. We compared the behavior of wild-caught great tits (Parus major) from Bohemia and Central Finland toward aposematic firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus), nonaposematic firebugs, novel objects and novel palatable nonaposematic prey. Finnish and Bohemian birds did not differ in their novel-object exploration, but Finnish birds hesitated longer than Bohemian birds before resuming feeding next to a novel object. Latencies to attack novel palatable prey did not differ and were not correlated with the attitude toward novel objects. Tits from the Bohemian population mostly avoided aposematic firebugs and attacked nonaposematic ones. Finnish birds were more likely to attack both firebug color forms, and their attack latencies were correlated with latencies of attacking novel palatable prey. Thus, Bohemian birds avoided the aposematic prey, but were not more neophobic than Finnish birds. These results suggest that differences between Finnish and Bohemian birds in behavior to aposematic prey do not follow differences in exploration strategy and neophobia. The observed differences can be explained by a different experience with local aposematic prey communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1361-1370
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • aposematism
  • exploration
  • geographic differences
  • neophobia
  • Parus major
  • Pyrrhocoris apterus


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