Behavioral Ecology

Be afraid

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Science  25 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6353, pp. 769
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6353.769-a

Eyespots on prey give sticklebacks pause.

PHOTO: WINFRIED WISNIEWSKI/MINDEN PICTURES

Eyespots are found across many animal species, with the presumed function of dissuading predators from attacking. However, it is difficult to determine whether predators respond to the aposematic effect of the spots, or whether they really see them as eyelike. Kjernso and Merilaita teased apart these two drivers by showing sticklebacks a series of patterns, some eyelike and some not, and found that the fish appreciably delayed attack of associated prey only in the presence of eyelike patterns. In addition, fish exposed to cues from their own predators (perch) delayed their attacks even further, suggesting that the response is both innate and learned.

Am. Nat. 10.1086/693473 (2017).

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