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Eyespot display in the peacock butterfly triggers antipredator behaviors in naïve adult fowl
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
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2013 (English)In: Behavioral Ecology, ISSN 1045-2249, E-ISSN 1465-7279, Vol. 24, no 1, 305-310 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Large conspicuous eyespots have evolved in multiple taxa and presumably function to thwart predator attacks. Traditionally, large eyespots were thought to discourage predator attacks because they mimicked eyes of the predators' own predators. However, this idea is controversial and the intimidating properties of eyespots have recently been suggested to simply be a consequence of their conspicuousness. Some lepidopteran species include large eyespots in their antipredation repertoire. In the peacock butterfly, Inachis io, eyespots are typically hidden during rest and suddenly exposed by the butterfly when disturbed. Previous experiments have shown that small wild passerines are intimidated by this display. Here, we test whether eyespots also intimidate a considerably larger bird, domestic fowl, Gallus gallus domesticus, by staging interactions between birds and peacock butterflies that were sham-painted or had their eyespots painted over. Our results show that birds typically fled when peacock butterflies performed their display regardless of whether eyespots were visible or painted over. However, birds confronting butterflies with visible eyespots delayed their return to the butterfly, were more vigilant, and more likely to utter alarm calls associated with detection of ground-based predators, compared with birds confronting butterflies with eyespots painted over. Because production of alarm calls and increased vigilance are antipredation behaviors in the fowl, their reaction suggests that eyespots may elicit fear rather than just an aversion to conspicuous patterns. Our results, therefore, suggest that predators perceive large lepidopteran eyespots as belonging to the eyes of a potential predator.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 24, no 1, 305-310 p.
Keyword [en]
chicken, predator-prey interactions, startle display
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-192015DOI: 10.1093/beheco/ars167ISI: 000312431000041OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-192015DiVA: diva2:600411
Available from: 2013-01-24 Created: 2013-01-15 Last updated: 2013-02-04Bibliographically approved

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