A1 Journal article (refereed)
Social learning within and across predator species reduces attacks on novel aposematic prey (2020)

Hämäläinen, L., Mappes, J., Rowland, H. M., Teichmann, M., & Thorogood, R. (2020). Social learning within and across predator species reduces attacks on novel aposematic prey. Journal of Animal Ecology, 89(5), 1153-1164. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13180

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Hämäläinen, Liisa; Mappes, Johanna; Rowland, Hannah M.; Teichmann, Marianne; Thorogood, Rose

Journal or series: Journal of Animal Ecology

ISSN: 0021-8790

eISSN: 1365-2656

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 89

Issue number: 5

Pages range: 1153-1164

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13180

Research data link: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.47021

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/67938

Publication is parallel published: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.47164


1. To make adaptive foraging decisions, predators need to gather information about the profitability of prey. As well as learning from prey encounters, recent studies show that predators can learn about prey defences by observing the negative foraging experiences of conspecifics. However, predator communities are complex. While observing heterospecifics may increase learning opportunities, we know little about how social information use varies across predator species.
2. Social transmission of avoidance among predators also has potential consequences for defended prey. Conspicuous aposematic prey are assumed to be an easy target for naïve predators, but this cost may be reduced if multiple predators learn by observing single predation events. Heterospecific information use by predators might further benefit aposematic prey, but this remains untested.
3. Here we test conspecific and heterospecific information use across a predator community with wild‐caught blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and great tits (Parus major). We used video playback to manipulate social information about novel aposematic prey and then compared birds’ foraging choices in ‘a small‐scale novel world’ that contained novel palatable and aposematic prey items.
4. We expected that blue tits would be less likely to use social information compared to great tits. However, we found that both blue tits and great tits consumed fewer aposematic prey after observing a negative foraging experience of a demonstrator. In fact, this effect was stronger in blue tits compared to great tits. Interestingly, blue tits also learned more efficiently from watching conspecifics, whereas great tits learned similarly regardless of the demonstrator species.
5. Together, our results indicate that social transmission about novel aposematic prey occurs in multiple predator species and across species boundaries. This supports the idea that social interactions among predators can reduce attacks on aposematic prey and therefore influence selection for prey defences.

Keywords: predators; animal behaviour; warning coloration; prey; social learning

Free keywords: aposematism; avoidance learning; conspecific information; heterospecific information; predator–prey interactions; social learning

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2022-20-09 at 15:42