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1.  Does habituation to humans influence predator discrimination in Gunther's dik-diks (Madoqua guentheri)? 
Biology Letters  2008;4(3):250-252.
Animals living around humans may habituate to us, but little is known about the consequences of this habituation. Some wildlife managers assume that habituation to humans makes individuals less likely to respond to natural predators, which is something to be avoided in captive breeding programmes where animals are destined for release. We conducted a playback experiment where we broadcast the sounds of a terrestrial predator and the song from a non-threatening bird to Gunther's dik-diks (Madoqua guentheri), a small ungulate that is vulnerable to many predators, in areas where dik-diks were and were not habituated to humans. Contrary to our expectation, habituated dik-diks discriminated the predator sounds from the birdsong, while unhabituated dik-diks failed to make this discrimination. Our results demonstrate that humans may influence predation hazard assessment, but we should not generally assume that human-habituated animals will be especially vulnerable to predators.
PMCID: PMC2610055  PMID: 18381260
habituation; conservation behaviour; reintroduction; acoustic predator discrimination
2.  Rodent sociality and parasite diversity 
Biology Letters  2007;3(6):692-694.
The risk of parasitism is considered to be a general cost of sociality and individuals living in larger groups are typically considered to be more likely to be infected with parasites. However, contradictory results have been reported for the relationship between group size and infection by directly transmitted parasites. We used independent contrasts to examine the relationship between an index of sociality in rodents and the diversity of their macroparasites (helminths and arthropods such as fleas, ticks, suckling lice and mesostigmatid mites). We found that the species richness of directly transmitted ectoparasites, but not endoparasites, decreased significantly with the level of rodent sociality. A greater homogeneity in the biotic environment (i.e. a reduced number of cohabiting host species) of the more social species may have reduced ectoparasites' diversity by impairing ectoparasites transmission and exchange. Our finding may also result from beneficial outcomes of social living that include behavioural defences, like allogrooming, and the increased avoidance of parasites through dilution effects.
PMCID: PMC2391225  PMID: 17925270
rodents; sociality; parasite species richness; ectoparasites
3.  Faecal glucocorticoid metabolites and alarm calling in free-living yellow-bellied marmots 
Biology Letters  2005;2(1):29-32.
When individuals of a variety of species encounter a potential predator, some, but not all, emit alarm calls. To explain the proximate basis of this variation, we compared faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in live-trapped yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) between occasions when they did and did not emit alarm calls. We found that marmots had significantly higher glucocorticoid levels when they called than when they did not call, suggesting that stress or arousal may play an important role in potentiating alarm calls. Marmots are sensitive to variation in the reliability of callers. The present finding provides one possible mechanism underlying caller variation: physiological arousal influences the propensity to emit alarm calls.
PMCID: PMC1617174  PMID: 17148318
alarm calling; glucocorticoids; stress

Results 1-3 (3)