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Biol Lett. Oct 23, 2010; 6(5): 617–619.
Published online Mar 24, 2010. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0153
PMCID: PMC2936148
Taste-rejection behaviour by predators can promote variability in prey defences
Christina G. Halpin* and Candy Rowe
Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Henry Wellcome Building, Newcastle University, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4HH, UK
*Author for correspondence (christina.halpin/at/
Received February 15, 2010; Accepted March 3, 2010.
The evolution and maintenance of toxicity in a prey population is a challenge to evolutionary biologists if the investment in toxin does not benefit the individual. Recent experiments suggest that taste-rejection behaviour enables predators to selectively ingest less toxic individuals, which could stabilize investment in defences. However, we currently do not know if taste rejection of defended prey is accurate across different contexts, and that prey always benefit according to their investment. Using avian predators, we show that the rejection probability does not solely depend on the investment in defence by an individual, but also on the investment by other individuals in the same population. Therefore, taste rejection by predators could lead to destabilization in the investment in defences, and allow variability in prey defences to exist.
Keywords: domestic chick, insect defence, crypsis, automimicry, avian taste, aposematism
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