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Not afraid of the big bad wolf: calls from large predators do not silence mesopredators

Root‐Gutteridge, Holly; Smith, Bethany R; Kershenbaum, Arik; Butkiewicz, Hannah; Fontaine, Amy Clare; Owens, Jessica L; Schindler, Loretta; (2024) Not afraid of the big bad wolf: calls from large predators do not silence mesopredators. Wildlife Biology 10.1002/wlb3.01226. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Large predators are known to shape the behavior and ecology of sympatric predators via conflict and competition, with mesopredators thought to avoid large predators, while dogs suppress predator activity and act as guardians of human property. However, interspecific communication between predators has not been well‐explored and this assumption of avoidance may oversimplify the responses of the species involved. We explored the acoustic activity of three closely related sympatric canids: wolves Canis lupus, coyotes Canis latrans, and dogs Canis familiaris. These species have an unbalanced triangle of risk: coyotes, as mesopredators, are at risk from both apex‐predator wolves and human‐associated dogs, while wolves fear dogs, and dogs may fear wolves as apex predators or challenge them as intruders into human‐allied spaces. We predicted that risk perception would dictate vocal response with wolves and dogs silencing coyotes as well as dogs silencing wolves. Dogs, in their protective role of guarding human property, would respond to both. Eleven passive acoustic monitoring devices were deployed across 13 nights in central Wisconsin, and we measured the responses of each species to naturally occurring heterospecific vocalizations. Against our expectation, silencing did not occur. Instead, coyotes were not silenced by either species: when hearing wolves, coyotes responded at greater than chance rates and when hearing dogs, coyotes did not produce fewer calls than chance rates. Similarly, wolves responded at above chance rates to coyotes and at chance rates when hearing dogs. Only the dogs followed our prediction and responded at above chance rates in response to both coyotes and wolves. Thus, instead of silencing their competitors, canid vocalizations elicit responses from them suggesting the existence of a complex heterospecific communication network.

Type: Article
Title: Not afraid of the big bad wolf: calls from large predators do not silence mesopredators
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/wlb3.01226
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wlb3.01226
Language: English
Additional information: © 2024 The Authors. Wildlife Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Canis familiaris, Canis latrans, Canis lupus, eavesdropping, ecology of fear, interspecific communication
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10190079
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