Learning to avoid dangerous habitat types by aquatic salamanders, Eurycea tynerensis
There should be intense selection for predation avoidance mechanisms when prey live in close proximity to their predators. Prey individuals that can learn to associate habitat features with high levels of predation risk should experience increased survival if they subsequently avoid those habitats. We tested whether or not habitat learning occurred in a benthic stream community consisting of adult Oklahoma salamander (Eurycea tynerensis) prey and a syntopic predatory fish, the banded sculpin (Cottus carolinae). We exposed individual salamanders to chemical stimuli from sculpin, non-predatory tadpoles, or a blank control in training tanks containing either rocks or grass. Two days later, the salamanders were tested in tanks that offered a choice of rocks or grass. Salamanders showed significant avoidance of the habitat where they had previously encountered chemical cues from sculpin in comparison to the non-predatory controls. Learning to avoid dangerous habitats may be particularly important for prey whose predators are visually cryptic ambush foragers, such as sculpin.
Mathis, Alicia, and Shem Unger. Learning to avoid dangerous habitat types by aquatic salamanders, Eurycea tynerensis." Ethology 118, no. 1 (2012): 57-62."
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