To Eat or Not to Eat? Behavioral Responses to Novelty and Aposematic Signals
Candler, Sarah A.
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Foraging behavior is an integral part of an individual’s life. Without food, organisms will not have the energy needed to find shelter, reproduce, etc.; therefore, understanding the ways in which individuals find and respond to food can provide insights into their success. This is particularly true in the case of invasive species, which must cope with novel prey items when moving into new habitats. We examined the response of cane toads (Rhinella marina) from native and introduced ranges to novel and familiar prey items. Native cane toads were less likely to consume novel prey items and thus more neophobic than introduced toads. We also tested native toads for neophilic tendencies. Toads were presented with both novel and familiar prey at once. We found that native toads do not preferentially feed on novel prey and, therefore, are not neophilic. In addition to affecting the individual’s survival, foraging behavior can also impact the prey species. The evolutionary pathway of a prey species can be altered through the foraging behavior of predators. We examined the response of three common nocturnal predators, the cane toad and two species of insectivorous bats (Myotis nigricans and Molossus molossus), to two species of Neotropical fireflies (Photurus trivattatta and Bicellonycha amoena) to determine if flashing serves as an aposematic signal to predators in addition to functioning as a courtship signal. Both species of bats rejected fireflies, but ate mealworms coated in pyrazine. Fireflies, however, did not deter cane toads. This suggests that fireflies are unpalatable to some predator species, but pyrazine is not the main deterrent. By understanding the foraging behavior of a species insight can be gained into mechanisms for their success as well as their impact on the evolution history with and effect on prey species.