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November 8 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Speaker: Grant Brown, PhD (Concordia University, Biology department)
Fear of the unknown: Neophobia as an adaptive response to uncertain risks.
Due to the unforgiving nature of predation, prey animals are continually faced with the conflicting demands of predator avoidance and a suite of other fitness-related activities. The reliable assessment of local predation risks should allow prey to optimize behavioural decisions. However, predation risks can be spatially and temporally variable, leading to uncertainty in local risks. Such uncertainty is argued to dramatically increase the costs of decision-making among prey populations. Recently, we have argued that induced neophobia (the ‘fear’ of novel stimuli) may function as a generalized response to ecological uncertainty. In support of this hypothesis, I will highlight our recent laboratory and field studies that: 1) link the intensity of ambient predation risk to the strength and retention of neophobic responses, 2) disentangle the role of density vs. diversity of risks in shaping neophobia, 3) test the effects of microhabitat complexity on the intensity of neophobia, and 4) assess the additive effects of predation risk and foraging strength on the intensity of neophobia. Given the combined effects of anthropogenic habitat degradation, invasive species and climate change, understanding how prey respond to ecological uncertainty is critical question for ecologists.
Dr. Brown is a Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology in the Department of Biology, Concordia University. His research group focuses on the evolution of predator avoidance strategies among prey populations.
Tonia De Bellis
Faculty, Biology Department
Dawson College, Montreal, QC