Social learning of predators in the dark: Understanding the role of visual, chemical and mechanical information
journal contributionposted on 2018-11-01, 00:00 authored by Rachel ManassaRachel Manassa, MI McCormick, DP Chivers, MCO Ferrari
The ability of prey to observe and learn to recognize potential predators from the behaviour of nearby individuals can dramatically increase survival and, not surprisingly, is widespread across animal taxa. A range of sensory modalities are available for this learning, with visual and chemical cues being well-established modes of transmission in aquatic systems. The use of other sensory cues in mediating social learning in fishes, including mechano-sensory cues, remains unexplored. Here, we examine the role of different sensory cues in social learning of predator recognition, using juvenile damselfish (Amphiprion percula). Specifically, we show that a predator-naive observer can socially learn to recognize a novel predator when paired with a predator-experienced conspecific in total darkness. Furthermore, this study demonstrates that when threatened, individuals release chemical cues (known as disturbance cues) into the water. These cues induce an anti-predator response in nearby individuals; however, they do not facilitate learnt recognition of the predator. As such, another sensory modality, probably mechano-sensory in origin, is responsible for information transfer in the dark. This study highlights the diversity of sensory cues used by coral reef fishes in a social learning context.