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Sound improves visual discrimination learning in avian predators

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Candy Rowe

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Abstract

Aposematic insects use warning colours to deter predators, but many also produce odours or sounds when attacked by a predator. One possible role for these additional components is that they promote the association between the warning colour and the non-profitability it signals, thus reducing the chance of future attacks from visually hunting predators. This experiment explicitly tests this idea by looking at the effects of sound on a visual discrimination task. Young domestic chicks were trained to look for food rewards under coloured paper cones scattered in an experimental arena. In a subsequent visual discrimination task, they learned to discriminate between rewarded and non-rewarded hats on the basis of colour. Half the chicks performed this task in silence, whilst the other half had a tone played when they attacked non-rewarded hats. The presence of the tone improved the speed of colour discrimination learning. This demonstrates that there could be a selective advantage for aposematic coloured insects to emit sounds when attacked, since avian predators will learn to avoid their coloration more quickly. The role of psychological interactions between signal components in receivers is discussed in relation to the evolution of multimodal displays.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Rowe C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2002

Volume: 269

Issue: 1498

Pages: 1353-1357

ISSN (print): 0962-8452

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2954

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2002.2012

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2012


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