Photo by Kenneth A Schmidt
Eavesdropping, Information Transfer, & Keystone Signalers
This work examines if and how heterospecifics use predator alarm calls and other signals to adjust their perception of predation risk and the fitness consequences thereof. Empirical systems include bird-bird and rodent-bird dyads (e.g., chipmunk-parid, squirrel-corvid) and, in South Africa, working with alarm calling in coexisting antelope species: grey duikers and bushbuck. The latter study began in 2007 funded by the National Geographic Society and has continued with the help of my PhD student, Amy Kuczynski. The South African work demonstrates that heterospecific information transfer occurs not only between two antelope species, but also to leopards. Thus predators and their collective prey may be in a carefully crafted game of hide-n-seek played out in time and space choreographed through informational cues. In 2012, we are attempting to combine radio telemetry and playback experiments that manipulate the soundscape to determine changes to both small-scale/short-term (e.g., prey foraging rates and vigilance) and large-scale (prey movement patterns across the manipulated landscape) duiker behavior. Through these investigations we will seek additional funding to examine how eavesdropping on keystone signalers (prey with particularly well developed sensory and communication skills that alert other individuals, possibly including heterospecifics, of predator presence) may increase survivorship and facilitate movement/dispersal across heterogeneous landscapes.