Naiveté is not forever

responses of a vulnerable native rodent to its long term alien predators

Alexandra J R Carthey, Peter B. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Alien predators have wreaked havoc on isolated endemic and island fauna worldwide, a phenomenon generally attributed to prey naiveté, or a failure to display effective antipredator behaviour due to a lack of experience. While the failure to recognise and/or respond to a novel predator has devastating impacts in the short term after predators are introduced, few studies have asked whether medium to long term experience with alien predators enables native species to overcome their naiveté. In Australia, introduced dogs Canis lupus familiaris, foxes Vulpes vulpes and cats Felis catus have caused rapid extinctions and declines in small–medium sized native mammals since they were introduced ∼150 years ago. However, native wildlife have had ∼4000 years experience with another dog – the dingo Canis lupus dingo. Native bush rats Rattus fuscipes remain common despite predation from these predators. We predicted that prior experience with dingoes would mean that bush rats recognise and respond to dogs, but suspect that hundreds of years experience may not be enough for effective responses to cats and foxes. To test these predictions, we combined the giving-up density (GUD) with analysis of remote camera footage to measure bush rat foraging and behavioural responses to body odour from dogs, foxes, cats and native spotted-tail quolls Dasyurus maculatus. Bush rats responded strongly to dogs with increased GUDs, increased vigilance and decreased foraging. However, mixed responses to foxes and cats suggest that at least some individuals remain naïve towards these predators. Naiveté is not necessarily forever: alien predators devastate many native prey species, but others may learn or adapt to the new threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-926
Number of pages9
JournalOikos
Volume125
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

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