Innate and Learned Predator Recognition Mediated by Chemical Signals in Eurycea nana


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Publication Date

June 2008


Effective and efficient predator recognition and avoidance are essential for the persistence of prey populations, especially in habitats where non‐native predators have been introduced. Predator recognition studies are commonly couched within a learned or innate dichotomous framework; however, characteristics of some systems or species could favor innate recognition combined with the ability to alter avoidance responses based on experience with predators. Eurycea nana is a fully aquatic salamander inhabiting a system with a diverse, yet temporally stable, community of native and non‐native opportunistically foraging fish predators. To examine predator recognition, we examined avoidance responses (decreased activity) of predator‐naïve (first‐generation, captive‐reared) and predator‐experienced (recently collected) E. nana to the chemical cues of a native predator, a non‐native predator, a non‐predator, and a blank control. Both predator‐naïve and predator‐experienced E. nana significantly lowered activity in response to the native fish predator when compared with a blank control. Interestingly, predator‐naïve E. nana decreased activity in response to the non‐native fish predator while predator‐experienced E. nana did not. These results indicate that while there is an innate component to predator recognition in E. nana, experience and risk assessment may also be important.

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Ethology, Vol. 114, no. 6 (2008-06).