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Avian predators taste reject mimetic prey in relation to their signal reliability

He, R.; Pagani-Núñez, E.; Goodale, E.; Barnett, C.R.A.


R. He

E. Goodale

C.R.A. Barnett


Aposematic organisms defend themselves through various means to increase their unprofitability to predators which they advertise with conspicuous warning signals. Predators learn to avoid aposematic prey through associative learning that leads to lower predation. However, when these visual signals become unreliable (e.g., through automimicry or Batesian mimicry), predators may switch from using visual signals to taste sampling prey to choose among them. In this experiment, we tested this possibility in a field experiment where we released a total of 4800 mealworm prey in two clusters consisting of either: (i) undefended prey (injected with water) and (ii) model-mimics (injected with either quinine sulphate [models] or water [mimics]). Prey were deployed at 12 sites, with the mimic frequency of the model-mimics ranging between 0 and 1 (at 0.2 intervals). We found that taste rejection peaked at moderate mimic frequencies (0.4 and 0.6), supporting the idea that taste sampling and rejection of prey is related to signal reliability and predator uncertainty. This is the first time that taste-rejection has been shown to be related to the reliability of prey signals in a mimetic prey system.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 14, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 11, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Nov 1, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 1, 2022
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Article Number 2334
Public URL


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