Prey species defend themselves behaviorally and morphologically, and often utilize varied antipredator strategies against dissimilar predator types (i.e. terrestrial vs. aerial). Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) spray noxious secretions at predators and advertise this danger with deterrent behaviors and black-and-white aposematic coloration. Evidence suggests skunks are effective at deterring terrestrial mammalian predators but are vulnerable to aerial predators; how skunks assess the risk posed by different predator types, however, has not been examined empirically. I recorded the behavioral responses of skunks to audio playbacks of coyotes and great horned owls (the primary terrestrial and aerial predators of skunks, respectively), and peregrine falcons and white noise as controls, as well as to a visual remote controlled model. Skunks engaged in vigilance and running away more often in response to owl vocalizations, suggesting skunks perceive owls as more threatening relative to coyotes. Skunks were more likely to foot stomp and run away in response to the remote controlled model compared with coyote vocalizations, implying visual cues were perceived as more risky than audio cues. This study elucidates how a well-defended mammal can determine which perceived threat is most risky and alter its behavior when its main defense strategy is not successful against all predator types.
|Commitee:||Lowe, Christopher G., Whitcraft, Christine|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||MAI 57/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Biology, Ecology, Zoology|
|Keywords:||Antipredator behavior, Aposematism, Coyote, Defense, Predation risk, Skunk|
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