Much of the previous research on anti-predation vigilance in groups has assumed independent scanning for threats among group members. Alternative patterns that are based on monitoring the vigilance levels of companions can also be adaptive. Coordination of vigilance, in which foragers avoid scanning at the same time as others, should decrease the odds that no group member is alert. Synchronisation of vigilance implies that individuals are more likely to be vigilant when companions are already vigilant. While synchronisation will increase the odds that no one is vigilant, it may allow a better assessment of potential threats. We investigated temporal sequences of vigilance in family flocks consisting of two parents and at most two juveniles in two species of cranes in coastal China. We established whether the observed probability that at least one parent is alert was greater (coordination) or lower (synchronisation) than that predicted under the null hypothesis of independent vigilance. We documented coordination of vigilance in common cranes (Grus grus) foraging in an area with high potential for disturbance by people. We documented synchronisation of vigilance in red-crowned cranes (Grus japonensis) in the less but not in the more disturbed area. Coordination in small flocks leads to high collective vigilance but low foraging rates that may not be suitable in areas with low disturbance. We also argue that synchronisation should break down in areas with high disturbance because periods with low vigilance are riskier. Results highlight the view that temporal patterns of vigilance can take many forms depending on ecological factors.
Next to predator detection, primate vigilance also serves to keep track of relevant conspecifics. The degree of vigilance towards group members often reflects the dominance rank of an individual: subordinates pay attention to dominants. Although it has been suggested that subordinates’ vigilance may result in spatial centrality of dominants, this has not been addressed in either empirical or modeling studies. Using agent-based models, we determined how social vigilance affects socio-spatial properties of primate groups. A basic model without social vigilance, where individuals avoid potential aggressors (avoidance model), was contrasted with two models that each additionally included a different type of social vigilance: a) monitoring a specific potential aggressor to remain informed on its whereabouts (monitoring model) or b) scanning the whole group to detect potential aggressors (scanning model). Adding monitoring or scanning behavior to the avoidance model reinforced spatial centrality of dominants, a pattern often observed in primates, and resulted in more spread out groups. Moreover, variation in scanning tendency alone was already sufficient to generate spatial centrality of dominants: frequently scanning subordinates could move further away from the group center than dominants, before losing sight of group members. In the monitoring model, two mechanisms caused decreased encounter frequencies among subordinates: a) increased inter-individual distances, and b) frequent monitoring of central dominants. In the scanning model, encounters among subordinates decreased due to increased inter-individual distances. This agent-based model study provides a clear indication that individual variation in social vigilance may be an important structuring feature of primate social groups.
Social vigilance; Social attention; Aggression; Social behavior; Individual-based model; Self-organization
Predation directly triggers behavioural decisions designed to increase immediate survival. However, these behavioural modifications can have long term costs. There is therefore a trade-off between antipredator behaviours and other activities. This trade-off is generally considered between vigilance and only one other behaviour, thus neglecting potential compensations. In this study, we considered the effect of an increase in predation risk on the diurnal time-budget of three captive duck species during the wintering period. We artificially increased predation risk by disturbing two groups of 14 mallard and teals at different frequencies, and one group of 14 tufted ducks with a radio-controlled stressor. We recorded foraging, vigilance, preening and sleeping durations the week before, during and after disturbance sessions. Disturbed groups were compared to an undisturbed control group. We showed that in all three species, the increase in predation risk resulted in a decrease in foraging and preening and led to an increase in sleeping. It is worth noting that contrary to common observations, vigilance did not increase. However, ducks are known to be vigilant while sleeping. This complex behavioural adjustment therefore seems to be optimal as it may allow ducks to reduce their predation risk. Our results highlight the fact that it is necessary to encompass the whole individual time-budget when studying behavioural modifications under predation risk. Finally, we propose that studies of behavioural time-budget changes under predation risk should be included in the more general framework of the starvation-predation risk trade-off.
In risky environments, where threats are unpredictable and the quality of information about threats is variable, all individuals face two fundamental challenges: balancing vigilance against other activities, and determining when to respond to warning signals. The solution to both is to obtain continuous estimates of background risk, enabling vigilance to be concentrated during the riskiest periods and informing about the likely cost of ignoring warnings. Human surveillance organizations routinely produce such estimates, frequently derived from indirect cues. Here we show that vigilant individuals in an animal society (the pied babbler, Turdoides bicolor) perform a similar role. We ask (i) whether, in the absence of direct predator threats, pied babbler sentinels react to indirect information associated with increased risk and whether they communicate this information to group mates; (ii) whether group mates use this information to adjust their own vigilance, and whether this influences foraging success; and (iii) whether information provided by sentinels reduces the likelihood of inappropriate responses to alarm calls. Using playback experiments, we show that: (i) sentinels reacted to indirect predator cues (in the form of heterospecific alarm calls) by giving graded surveillance calls; (ii) foragers adjusted their vigilance in reaction to changes in surveillance calls, with substantial effects on foraging success; and (iii) foragers reduced their probability of responding to alarm calls when surveillance calls indicated lowered risk. These results demonstrate that identifying attacks as they occur is only part of vigilance: equally important is continuous surveillance providing information necessary for individuals to make decisions about their own vigilance and evasive action. Moreover, they suggest that a major benefit of group living is not only the increased likelihood of detecting threats, but a marked improvement in the quality of information available to each individual.
sentinel behaviour; risk sensitivity; communication; signal detection theory; cooperation; group living
Game-theoretical models have been highly influential in behavioural ecology. However, these models generally assume that animals choose their action before observing the behaviour of their opponents while, in many natural situations, individuals in fact continuously react to the actions of others. A negotiation process then takes place and this may fundamentally influence the individual attitudes and the tendency to cooperate. Here, I use the classical model system of vigilance behaviour to demonstrate the consequences of such behavioural negotiation among selfish individuals, by predicting patterns of vigilance in a pair of animals foraging under threat of predation. I show that the game played by the animals and the resulting vigilance strategies take radically different forms, according to the way predation risk is shared in the pair. In particular, if predators choose their target at random, the prey respond by displaying moderate vigilance and taking turns scanning. By contrast, if the individual that takes flight later in an attack endures a higher risk of being targeted, vigilance increases and there is always at least one sentinel in the pair. Finally, when lagging behind its companion in fleeing from an attacker becomes extremely risky, vigilance decreases again and the animals scan simultaneously.
antipredator behaviour; cooperation; evolutionarily stable strategies; game theory; negotiation; vigilance
In the context of social foraging, predator detection has been the subject of numerous studies, which acknowledge the adaptive response of the individual to the trade-off between feeding and vigilance. Typically, animals gain energy by increasing their feeding time and decreasing their vigilance effort with increasing group size, without increasing their risk of predation (‘group size effect’). Research on the biological utility of vigilance has prevailed over considerations of the mechanistic rules that link individual decisions to group behavior. With sheep as a model species, we identified how the behaviors of conspecifics affect the individual decisions to switch activity. We highlight a simple mechanism whereby the group size effect on collective vigilance dynamics is shaped by two key features: the magnitude of social amplification and intrinsic differences between foraging and scanning bout durations. Our results highlight a positive correlation between the duration of scanning and foraging bouts at the level of the group. This finding reveals the existence of groups with high and low rates of transition between activies, suggesting individual variations in the transition rate, or ‘tempo’. We present a mathematical model based on behavioral rules derived from experiments. Our theoretical predictions show that the system is robust in respect to variations in the propensity to imitate scanning and foraging, yet flexible in respect to differences in the duration of activity bouts. The model shows how individual decisions contribute to collective behavior patterns and how the group, in turn, facilitates individual-level adaptive responses.
Group size is known to affect both the amount of time that prey animals spend in vigilance and the degree to which the vigilance of group members is synchronized. However, the variation in group-size effects reported in the literature is not yet understood. Prey animals exhibit vigilance both to protect themselves against predators and to monitor other group members, and both forms of vigilance presumably influence group-size effects on vigilance. However, our understanding of the patterns of individual investment underlying the time sharing between anti-predator and social vigilance is still limited. We studied patterns of variation in individual vigilance and the synchronization of vigilance with group size in a wild population of eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) subject to predation, in particular focusing on peripheral females because we expected that they would exhibit both social and anti-predator vigilance. There was no global effect of group size on individual vigilance. The lack of group-size effect was the result of two compensating effects. The proportion of time individuals spent looking at other group members increased, whereas the proportion of time they spent scanning the environment decreased with group size; as a result, overall vigilance levels did not change with group size. Moreover, a degree of synchrony of vigilance occurred within groups and that degree increased with the proportion of vigilance time peripheral females spent in anti-predator vigilance. Our results highlight the crucial roles of both social and anti-predator components of vigilance in the understanding of the relationship between group size and vigilance, as well as in the synchronization of vigilance among group members.
vigilance; anti-predator behaviour; social monitoring; synchronization; group living; eastern grey kangaroo
During sleep animals are relatively unresponsive and unaware of their environment, and therefore, more exposed to predation risk than alert and awake animals. This vulnerability might influence when, where and how animals sleep depending on the risk of predation perceived before going to sleep. Less clear is whether animals remain sensitive to predation cues when already asleep.
We experimentally tested whether great tits are able to detect the chemical cues of a common nocturnal predator while sleeping. We predicted that birds exposed to the scent of a mammalian predator (mustelid) twice during the night would not go into torpor (which reduces their vigilance) and hence would not reduce their body temperature as much as control birds, exposed to the scent of another mammal that does not represent a danger for the birds (rabbit). As a consequence of the higher body temperature birds exposed to the scent of a predator are predicted to have a higher resting metabolic rate (RMR) and to lose more body mass. In the experiment, all birds decreased their body temperature during the night, but we did not find any influence of the treatment on body temperature, RMR, or body mass.
Our results suggest that birds are not able to detect predator chemical cues while sleeping. As a consequence, antipredatory strategies taken before sleep, such as roosting sites inspection, may be crucial to cope with the vulnerability to predation risk while sleeping.
When isolated from predators, costly and no longer functional anti-predator behaviour should be selected against. Predator naiveté is often pronounced on islands, where species are found with few or no predators. However, isolation on islands involves other processes, such as founder effects, that might be responsible for naiveté or reduced anti-predator behaviour. We report the first comparative evidence that, in macropodid marsupials, isolation on islands may lead to a systematic loss of ‘group size effects’—a behaviour whereby individuals reduce anti-predator vigilance and allocate more time to foraging as group size increases. Moreover, insular animals forage more, and are less vigilant, than mainland ones. However, we found no evidence that animals on the mainland are ‘flightier’ than those on islands. Remarkably, we also found no evidence that isolation from all predators per se is responsible for these effects. Together, these results demonstrate that anti-predator behaviour may indeed be lost or modified when animals are isolated on islands, but it is premature to assume that all such behaviour is affected.
isolation on islands; persistence of anti-predator behaviour; relaxed selection
It is generally assumed that an individual of a prey species can benefit from an increase in the number of its group's members by reducing its own investment in vigilance. But what behaviour should group members adopt in relation to both the risk of being preyed upon and the individual investment in vigilance? Most models assume that individuals scan independently of one another. It is generally argued that it is more profitable for each group member owing to the cost that coordination of individual scans in non-overlapping bouts of vigilance would require. We studied the relationships between both individual and collective vigilance and group size in Defassa waterbuck, Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa, in a population living under a predation risk. Our results confirmed that the proportion of time an individual spent in vigilance decreased with group size. However, the time during which at least one individual in the group scanned the environment (collective vigilance) increased. Analyses showed that individuals neither coordinated their scanning in an asynchronous way nor scanned independently of one another. On the contrary, scanning and non-scanning bouts were synchronized between group members, producing waves of collective vigilance. We claim that these waves are triggered by allelomimetic effects i.e. they are a phenomenon produced by an individual copying its neighbour's behaviour.
vigilance; anti-predator behaviour; synchronization; allelomimesis; Defassa waterbuck; African antilope
As alarm calls indicate the presence of predators, the correct interpretation of alarm calls, including those of other species, is essential for predator avoidance. Conversely, communication calls of other species might indicate the perceived absence of a predator and hence allow a reduction in vigilance. This “eavesdropping” was demonstrated in birds and mammals, including lemur species. Interspecific communication between taxonomic groups has so far been reported in some reptiles and mammals, including three primate species. So far, neither semantic nor interspecific communication has been tested in a solitary and nocturnal lemur species. The aim of this study was to investigate if the nocturnal and solitary Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis, is able to access semantic information of sympatric species. During the day, this species faces the risk of falling prey to aerial and terrestrial predators and therefore shows high levels of vigilance. We presented alarm calls of the crested coua, the Madagascar magpie-robin and aerial, terrestrial and agitation alarm calls of the blue-eyed black lemur to 19 individual Sahamalaza sportive lemurs resting in tree holes. Songs of both bird species’ and contact calls of the blue-eyed black lemur were used as a control. After alarm calls of crested coua, Madagascar magpie-robin and aerial alarm of the blue-eyed black lemur, the lemurs scanned up and their vigilance increased significantly. After presentation of terrestrial alarm and agitation calls of the blue-eyed black lemur, the animals did not show significant changes in scanning direction or in the duration of vigilance. Sportive lemur vigilance decreased after playbacks of songs of the bird species and contact calls of blue-eyed black lemurs. Our results indicate that the Sahamalaza sportive lemur is capable of using information on predator presence as well as predator type of different sympatric species, using their referential signals to detect predators early, and that the lemurs’ reactions are based on experience and learning.
It is commonly assumed that anti-predator vigilance by foraging animals is costly because it interrupts food searching and handling time, leading to a reduction in feeding rate. When food handling does not require visual attention, however, a forager may handle food while simultaneously searching for the next food item or scanning for predators. We present a simple model of this process, showing that when the length of such compatible handling time Hc is long relative to search time S, specifically Hc/S > 1, it is possible to perform vigilance without a reduction in feeding rate. We test three predictions of this model regarding the relationships between feeding rate, vigilance and the Hc/S ratio, with data collected from a wild population of social foragers (samango monkeys, Cercopithecus mitis erythrarchus). These analyses consistently support our model, including our key prediction: as Hc/S increases, the negative relationship between feeding rate and the proportion of time spent scanning becomes progressively shallower. This pattern is more strongly driven by changes in median scan duration than scan frequency. Our study thus provides a simple rule that describes the extent to which vigilance can be expected to incur a feeding rate cost.
Coordination can greatly improve the efficiency of anti-predatory vigilance scans by increasing predator detection for a constant proportion of time spent vigilant. However, it has been rarely found in nature and most studies have detected or assumed independent scanning by group members. In this study, we analysed the functional consequences of the coordinated alternation of vigilance scanning by group foragers. We introduce coordination by assuming that interscan intervals (ISIs) follow a modified gamma distribution. Depending on the parameters of the distribution, successive scans can be evenly spaced (coordinated scanning) or may present a high overlap (uncoordinated scanning). Comparing evolutionarily stable strategies for animals that do not coordinate their scanning with animals that do coordinate their anti-predator behaviour shows that coordination has a marked effect on survival probability. Moreover, the coordinating strategy is quite robust against mutants that scan independently with exponential distributions of ISIs. However, coordination breaks down when animals can continuously adjust their level of coordination by deciding the proportion of time they spend monitoring the behaviour of other group members. In this case, coordination is only evolutionarily stable if it can be very easily achieved.
Singing birds optimize signal transmission by perching in exposed locations. However, conspicuous singing may be risky, and previous research has found that individuals trade off singing performance with song perch exposure. We studied the relationship between predation risk (degree of concealment, height in tree or shrub, and distance to the forest edge) and time allocated to singing and vigilance in a group of 13 passerine species living in an East African savanna. Concealed birds sang more and were less vigilant. Vigilance increased as distance to the forested edge increased, but distance had no effect on time allocated to singing. Body size was significantly correlated with vigilance but not singing; larger passerines were more sensitive to both relative concealment and the distance to the forest edge, while song was influenced by neither of these factors. Perch height had no effect on either behavior. Our results suggest that birds modify vigilance and, to some extent, singing behavior to minimize their exposure to predators.
Birdsong; Perch exposure; Predation risk; Singing behavior
Many studies of social species have reported variation in the anti-predator vigilance behaviour of foraging individuals depending on the presence and relative position of other group members. However, little attention has focused on how foragers assess these variables. It is commonly assumed that they do so visually, but many social species produce frequent calls while foraging, and these ‘close’ calls might provide valuable spatial information. Here, we show that foraging pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) are less vigilant when in larger groups, in the centre of a group and in closer proximity to another group member. We then show that foragers are less vigilant during playbacks of close calling by more individuals and individuals on either side of them when compared with calls of fewer individuals and calls on one side of them. These results suggest that foragers can use vocal cues to gain information on group size and their spatial position within a group. Future studies of anti-predator vigilance should consider the relative importance of both visual and vocal monitoring of group members.
close calling; anti-predator vigilance; vocal communication; social foraging; social monitoring; vocal cues
Many studies document that individuals visually scan for predators less frequently when in the safety of larger groups. This widely replicated effect has generally been explained in terms of distinct predator detection and risk-dilution effects. We show that a strict distinction between detection and dilution disappears when information about attacks is imperfectly shared (as it is in reality). Furthermore, dilution and detection effects change depending on when during an attack the predator targets a particular prey individual for pursuit. Realistic detection and dilution effects probably interact with each other and also with the targeting behaviour of predators. Instead of considering detection and dilution effects on vigilance, it may be more profitable to consider each prey's probability of being targeted during an attack and its probability of escaping if attacked. This perspective emphasizes that a full understanding of safety in numbers requires an understanding of predator targeting strategies.
With increasing group size, individuals commonly spend less time standing head-up (scanning) and more time feeding. In small groups, a higher predation risk is likely to increase stress, which will be reflected by behavioural and endocrine responses. However, without any predator cues, we ask how the predation risk is actually processed by animals as group size decreases. We hypothesize that group size on its own acts as a stressor. We studied undisturbed groups of sheep under controlled pasture conditions, and measured in situ the cortisol and vigilance responses of identified individuals in groups ranging from 2 to 100 sheep. Both vigilance and average cortisol concentration decreased as group size increased. However, the cortisol response varied markedly among individuals in small groups, resulting in a lack of correlation between cortisol and vigilance responses. Further experiments are required to explore the mechanisms that underlie both the decay and the convergence of individual stress in larger groups, and whether these mechanisms promote adaptive anti-predator responses.
group size; stress; cortisol; vigilance; sheep
Anti-predator benefits increase with vigilance rate and group size in many species of animal, while simultaneously resource intake rates usually decrease. This implies that there is an optimal group size and vigilance rate that will maximize individual fitness. While this basic theory of vigilance has been modelled and tested extensively, it has often been assumed that the predator represents a ‘fixed-risk’ such that groups of prey are essentially independent entities that exert little or no effect on one another either directly or indirectly. We argue that this is an over-simplification, and propose that the behaviour of one group of prey will likely affect the fitness of another local group of prey if the predator preferentially attacks the most vulnerable group—rather than attack both with constant rates. Using a numerical simulation model, we make the first examination of this game and allow the prey to dynamically evolve both optimal group size distributions between two habitats and vigilance rates in response to a predator with a preference for whichever group is the more vulnerable. We show that the density of prey in the population and the sensitivity of a predator to differences in prey vulnerability are likely to drive the dynamics of such a game. This novel approach to vigilance theory opens the door to several challenging lines of future research, both experimental and theoretical.
simulation model; vigilance; game dynamics; group size
In many species, territorial neighbours fight to establish their mutual border and then develop a truce, known as the dear-enemy phenomenon, characterized by reduced vigilance and aggression along the border. We present evidence that among male red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) the dear-enemy relationship is a form of reciprocal conditional cooperation that is stabilized, at least in part, by retaliation against cheaters. Simulated intrusions by randomly chosen neighbours were punished by a targeted increase in vigilance and aggression that persists for days. We interpret this increase in vigilance towards trespassers as a manifestation of distrust. The conditional decrease in vigilance and aggression is tempered by each neighbour's probability of cuckolding the focal male. Male red-winged blackbirds maintained greater vigilance and aggression towards sexually attractive neighbours that were more successful at extra-pair fertilizations (EPFs). It is unlikely that males directly observed neighbours copulating with their mates. They were more likely to assess a neighbour's ability to achieve extra-pair copulations using surrogate cues that correlate with success at EPFs, including body size. Our results suggest that red-winged blackbirds use rules that incorporate their neighbour's behaviour and quality in their territorial interactions with one another. Our results expand our understanding of cooperation for animals and for humans as well.
Seabirds integrate information about oceanic ecosystems across time and space, and are considered sensitive indicators of marine conditions. To assess whether hypothesized long-term foodweb changes such as forage fish declines may be reflected in a consumer's life history traits over time, I used meta-regression to evaluate multi-decadal changes in aspects of egg production in the glaucous-winged gull (Larus glaucescens), a common coastal bird. Study data were derived from literature searches of published papers and unpublished historical accounts, museum egg collections, and modern field studies, with inclusion criteria based on data quality and geographic area of the original study. Combined historical and modern data showed that gull egg size declined at an average of 0.04 cc y−1 from 1902 (108 y), equivalent to a decline of 5% of mean egg volume, while clutch size decreased over 48 y from a mean of 2.82 eggs per clutch in 1962 to 2.25 in 2009. There was a negative relationship between lay date and mean clutch size in a given year, with smaller clutches occurring in years where egg laying commenced later. Lay date itself advanced over time, with commencement of laying presently (2008–2010) 7 d later than in previous studies (1959–1986). This study demonstrates that glaucous-winged gull investment in egg production has declined significantly over the past ∼50–100 y, with such changes potentially contributing to recent population declines. Though gulls are generalist feeders that should readily be able to buffer themselves against food web changes, they are likely nutritionally constrained during the early breeding period, when egg production requirements are ideally met by consumption of high-quality prey such as forage fish. This study's results suggest a possible decline in the availability of such prey, and the incremental long-term impoverishment of a coastal marine ecosystem bordering one of North America's rapidly growing urban areas.
Vigilance is a term with varied definitions but the most common usage is sustained attention or tonic alertness. This usage of vigilance implies both the degree of arousal on the sleep–wake axis and the level of cognitive performance. There are many interacting neural and neurotransmitter systems that affect vigilance. Most studies of vigilance have relied on states where the sleep–wake state is altered, e.g. drowsiness, sleep-deprivation, and CNS-active drugs, but there are factors ranging from psychophysics to motivation that may impact vigilance. While EEG is the most commonly studied physiologic measure of vigilance, various measures of eye movement and of autonomic nervous system activity have also been used. This review paper discusses the underlying neural basis of vigilance and its assessment using physiologic tools. Since, assessment of vigilance requires assessment of cognitive function this aspect is also discussed.
Arousal; Attention; Sleep deprivation; EEG; Evoked potentials; Cognition; Vigilance
Large white-headed gulls provide an interesting group of birds for studies of hybridization. The group is composed of 20 species of recent origin, often with weak reproductive barriers. Here we report the results from a study on the glaucous gull Larus hyperboreus, an Arctic species which has been breeding in Iceland for centuries, and the herring gull Larus argentatus which has a wide distribution in Europe but colonized Iceland in 1920s. Previous studies, based on morphological variation indicated hybridization between the two species in Iceland, have been questioned as it may just reflect variation within the species. Here we evaluate whether hybridization has occurred between the two species in Iceland by studying variation in microsatellites and mtDNA. The analysis is based on feathers taken from wings sampled in Iceland over a period of 40 years. The results are compared with samples obtained from East Greenland and published sequences of samples obtained throughout Europe. The genetic analysis reveals a distinctive grouping of the two species, although they present a shallow genealogy and an extensive sharing of the genetic variants between the two species. Several individuals show admixture for molecular markers, which may result from an incomplete lineage sorting although geographical patterns of both mtDNA haplotypes and microsatellites strongly indicate a recent hybridization in Iceland.
gulls; introgression; Arctic; expansion; cytochrome b; phylogeography
It is assumed that predators mainly prey on substandard individuals, but even though some studies partially support this idea, evidence with large sample sizes, exhaustive analysis of prey and robust analysis is lacking. We gathered data from a culling program of yellow-legged gulls killed by two methods: by the use of raptors or by shooting at random. We compared both data sets to assess whether birds of prey killed randomly or by relying on specific individual features of the prey. We carried out a meticulous post-mortem examination of individuals, and analysing multiple prey characteristics simultaneously we show that raptors did not hunt randomly, but rather preferentially predate on juveniles, sick gulls, and individuals with poor muscle condition. Strikingly, gulls with an unusually good muscle condition were also predated more than expected, supporting the mass-dependent predation risk theory. This article provides a reliable example of how natural selection may operate in the wild and proves that predators mainly prey on substandard individuals.
The degree to which foraging and vigilance are mutually exclusive is crucial to understanding the management of the predation and starvation risk trade-off in animals. We tested whether wild-caught captive chaffinches that feed at a higher rate do so at the expense of their speed in responding to a model sparrowhawk flying nearby, and whether consistently good foragers will therefore tend to respond more slowly on average. First, we confirmed that the time taken to respond to the approaching predator depended on the rate of scanning: as head-up rate increased so chaffinches responded more quickly. However, against predictions, as peck rate increased so head-up rate increased and mean length of head-up and head-down periods decreased. Head-up rate was probably dependent on peck rate because almost every time a seed was found, a bird raised its head to handle it. Therefore chaffinches with higher peck rates responded more quickly. Individual chaffinches showed consistent durations of both their head-down and head-up periods and, therefore, individuals that were good foragers were also good detectors of predators. In relation to the broad range of species that have a similar foraging mode to chaffinches, our results have two major implications for predation/starvation risk trade-offs: (i) feeding rate can determine vigilance scanning patterns; and (ii) the best foragers can also be the best at detecting predators. We discuss how our results can be explained in mechanistic terms relating to fundamental differences in how the probabilities of detecting food rather than a predator are affected by time. In addition, our results offer a plausible explanation for the widely observed effect that vigilance continues to decline with group size even when there is no further benefit to reducing vigilance.
Theory predicts that animals in adverse conditions can decrease individual risks and increase long-term benefits by cooperating with neighbours. However, some empirical studies suggest that animals often focus on short-term benefits, which can reduce the likelihood that they will cooperate with others. In this experimental study, we tested between these two alternatives by evaluating whether increased predation risk (as a correlate of environmental adversity) enhances or diminishes the occurrence of cooperation in mobbing, a common anti-predator behaviour, among breeding pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca. We tested whether birds would join their mobbing neighbours more often and harass a stuffed predator placed near their neighbours' nests more intensely in areas with a higher perceived risk of predation. Our results show that birds attended mobs initiated by their neighbours more often, approached the stuffed predator significantly more closely, and mobbed it at a higher intensity in areas where the perceived risk of predation was experimentally increased. In such high-risk areas, birds also were more often involved in between-pair cooperation. This study demonstrates the positive impact of predation risk on cooperation in breeding songbirds, which might help in explaining the emergence and evolution of cooperation.
cooperation; predation risk; social behaviour; pied flycatcher