Friend or foe? The role of latent inhibition in predator and non-predator labelling by coral reef fishes

Mitchell, Matthew D., McCormick, Mark I., Ferrari, Maud C.O., and Chivers, Douglas P. (2011) Friend or foe? The role of latent inhibition in predator and non-predator labelling by coral reef fishes. Animal Cognition, 14 (5). pp. 707-714.

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In communities of high biodiversity, the ability to distinguish predators from non-predators is crucial for prey success. Learning often plays a vital role in the ability to distinguish species that are threatening from those that are not. Many prey animals learn to recognise predators based on a single conditioning event whereby they are exposed to the unknown predator at the same time as alarm cues released from injured conspecifics. The remarkable efficiency of such learning means that recognition mistakes may occur if prey inadvertently learn that a species is a predator when it is not. Latent inhibition is a means by which prey that are pre-exposed to an unknown species in the absence of negative reinforcement can learn that the unknown animal is likely not a threat. Learning through latent inhibition should be conservative because mistakenly identifying predators as non-predators can have fatal consequences. In this study, we demonstrated that a common coral reef fish, lemon damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis can learn to recognise a predator as non-threatening through latent inhibition. Furthermore, we showed that we could override the latent inhibition effect by conditioning the prey to recognise the predator numerous times. Our results highlight the ability of prey fish to continually update the information regarding the threat posed by other fishes in their vicinity.

Item ID: 19666
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1435-9456
Keywords: learning, latent inhibition, anti-predator behaviour, threat-sensitivity, risk assessment, predator recognition
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2012 00:40
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 70%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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