Exposure to Chemical Cues from Predator-Exposed Conspecifics Increases Reproduction in a Wild Rodent

M. Haapakoski*, A.A. Hardenbol, Kevin D. Matson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Predation involves more than just predators consuming prey. Indirect effects, such as fear responses caused by predator presence, can have consequences for prey life history. Laboratory experiments have shown that some rodents can recognize fear in conspecifics via alarm pheromones. Individuals exposed to alarm pheromones can exhibit behavioural alterations that are similar to those displayed by predator-exposed individuals. Yet the ecological and evolutionary significance of alarm pheromones in wild mammals remains unclear. We investigated how alarm pheromones affect the behaviour and fitness of wild bank voles (Myodes glareolus) in outdoor enclosures. Specifically, we compared the effects of exposure of voles living in a natural environment to a second-hand fear cue, bedding material used by predator-exposed voles. Control animals were exposed to bedding used by voles with no predator experience. We found a ca. 50% increase in litter size in the group exposed to the predator cue. Furthermore, female voles were attracted to and males were repelled by trap-associated bedding that had been used by predator-exposed voles. Movement and foraging were not significantly affected by the treatment. Our results suggest that predation risk can exert population-level effects through alarm pheromones on prey individuals that did not encounter a direct predator cue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17214
JournalScientific Reports
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2018

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