A1 Journal article (refereed)
Predators’ consumption of unpalatable prey does not vary as a function of bitter taste perception (2020)

Hämäläinen, L., Mappes, J., Thorogood, R., Valkonen, J. K., Karttunen, K., Salmi, T., & Rowland, H. M. (2020). Predators’ consumption of unpalatable prey does not vary as a function of bitter taste perception. Behavioral Ecology, 31(2), 383-392. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arz199

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Hämäläinen, Liisa; Mappes, Johanna; Thorogood, Rose; Valkonen, Janne K.; Karttunen, Kaijamari; Salmi, Tuuli; Rowland, Hannah M.

Journal or series: Behavioral Ecology

ISSN: 1045-2249

eISSN: 1465-7279

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 31

Issue number: 2

Pages range: 383-392

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arz199

Research data link: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h44j0zpfj

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/298853


Many prey species contain defensive chemicals that are described as tasting bitter. Bitter taste perception is, therefore, assumed to be important when predators are learning about prey defenses. However, it is not known how individuals differ in their response to bitter taste, and how this influences their foraging decisions. We conducted taste perception assays in which wild-caught great tits (Parus major) were given water with increasing concentrations of bitter-tasting chloroquine diphosphate until they showed an aversive response to bitter taste. This response threshold was found to vary considerably among individuals, ranging from chloroquine concentrations of 0.01 mmol/L to 8 mmol/L. We next investigated whether the response threshold influenced the consumption of defended prey during avoidance learning by presenting birds with novel palatable and defended prey in a random sequence until they refused to attack defended prey. We predicted that individuals with taste response thresholds at lower concentrations would consume fewer defended prey before rejecting them, but found that the response threshold had no effect on the birds’ foraging choices. Instead, willingness to consume defended prey was influenced by the birds’ body condition. This effect was age- and sex-dependent, with adult males attacking more of the defended prey when their body condition was poor, whereas body condition did not have an effect on the foraging choices of juveniles and females. Together, our results suggest that even though taste perception might be important for recognizing prey toxicity, other factors, such as predators’ energetic state, drive the decisions to consume chemically defended prey.

Keywords: prey; warning coloration; great tit; animal behaviour; defence mechanisms (biological phenomena)

Free keywords: aposematism; avoidance learning; bitter taste; chemical defense; great tits; toxins

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2022-15-06 at 17:32