Adaptive significance of antipredator behaviour in artiodactyls

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
T. Caro
Animal Behaviour
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We used comparative data to test functional hypotheses for 17 antipredator behaviour patterns in artiodactyls. We examined the literature for hypotheses about auditory and visual signals, defensive behaviour and group-related antipredator behaviour in this taxon and derived a series of predictions for each hypothesis. Next, we documented occurrences of these behaviour patterns and morphological, ecological and behavioural variables for 200 species and coded them in binary format. We then pitted presence of an antipredator behaviour against presence of an independent variable for cervids, bovids and all artiodactyls together using nonparametric tests. Finally, we reanalysed the data using Maddison’s (1990, Evolution, 44, 539e557) concentrated-changes tests and a consensus molecular and taxonomic phylogeny. We found evidence that snorting is both a warning signal to conspecifics and a pursuit-deterrent signal, lack of evidence that whistling alerts conspecifics and indications that foot stamping is a visual signal to warn group members. Evidence suggested that tail flagging was a signal to both conspecifics and predators, that bounding, leaping and stotting were used both as a signal and to clear obstacles and that prancing functioned similarly to foot stamping. Analyses of tail flicking, zigzagging and tacking were equivocal. We confirmed that inspection occurs in large groups, freezing enhances crypticity, and species seeking refuge in cliffs tend to be small. Entering water and attacks on predators had few correlates. Finally, group living, a putative antipredator adaptation, was associated with large body size and species living in open habitats, confirming Jarman’s (1974, Behaviour, 48, 215e267) classic hypothesis. Bunching and group attack apparently deter predators. Despite limitations, comparative and systematic analyses can bolster adaptive hypotheses and raise new functional explanations for antipredator behaviour patterns in general.


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