Fear effects, predation cue recognition and changing environment: prey and specialist predator perspectives

Main funder

Funder's project number: 288990

Funds granted by main funder (€)

550 290,00

Funding program

Academy Project, AoF (Academy of Finland)

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2015

Project end date: 31/12/2019


In the evolutionary arms race between the prey and the predator key features to avoid the attack and survive are the right recognition of fear by the prey before of the attack by the predator and suitable environment to flee or hide. Environment should provide places to hide like burrow and cavities or background for hiding by means of camouflage or both. This research plan has two-fold goals: 1) recognition and cognitive processes in detection of increased predation risk of olfactory fear signals in boreal small rodent prey, recognition between familiar and alien predation cues and fear effects in behavior and stress physiology in boreal voles, 2) fear effects in behavior and physiology in the world’s smallest carnivore, the least weasel, major predator for voles but also prey for raptors and
owls. Weasel vulnerability to avian predation is avoided by coat color change to white in autumn to camouflage against white snowy background. This evolutionary escape from predation is triggered mainly by day-length and is strongly affected by possible climate change effects. If the coat change timing does not match to the background color the camouflage benefits turn to risky conspicuousness.
All empirical experimentation described here will be conducted at the Konnevesi Research Station of the University of Jyväskylä. This is because of high-standard infrastructure and logistics, for conducting joint laboratory and large outdoor enclosure experiments, to use, climatic chambers for manipulating day-length and temperature for experimental animals, keep large colonies of voles, and as the only place in the world keep a large experimental colony of least weasels. We have created an effective international and domestic research network providing logistical planning, supervision, technical assistance, laboratory analyses, research visits and exchange of students
between participating institutes.

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Primary responsible unit

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Last updated on 2020-26-06 at 15:07