Predators learning to avoid toxic invasive prey: a study on individual variation among free-ranging lizards

Georgia Ward-Fear*, Gregory P. Brown, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Within all wild populations, individuals vary in ways that affect their vulnerability to threatening processes. Understanding that variation may clarify mechanisms of population persistence and/or evolution. In Australia, Yellow-spotted Monitors (Varanus panoptes), decline by >90% when toxic Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) invade an area. Taste-aversion training (exposing animals to nonlethal toads) can buffer impacts; but does pre-existing behavioural variation also influence survival? An individual’s fate can be predicted from its behaviour during aversion-training trials. Lizards presented with small toads either consumed them, rejected them, or fled. When Cane Toads invaded our study site, mortality was lower in lizards that ‘consumed’ (aversion-trained) than in those that ‘fled’ (untrained), but even lower in lizards that ‘rejected’ toads outright. Thus, animals reluctant to consume toads in trials survived despite never being aversion-trained. In this system, lizard vulnerability is driven by boldness, behavioural responses to novel prey types, and the opportunity to learn aversion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1172
Number of pages20
JournalBehaviour
Volume157
Issue number14-15
Early online date30 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Behavioural syndrome
  • Biological invasion
  • Bufo marinus
  • Conditioned taste aversion
  • Conservation
  • Invasive species
  • Personality

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