Siberian jays can assess, communicate about the behaviour of predators

January 10th, 2008 - 1:59 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan 10 (ANI): A new research has revealed that Siberian jays can assess and communicate about the behaviour of predators.

Researchers at Uppsala University have discovered that with the help of various alarm calls the Siberian jaybirds inform other members of its group what their main predators, hawks, are doing.

The alarm calls are enough for these birds to evince situation-specific fleeing behaviours, which enhance their chances of survival.

Everyday, many animal species face the risk of being killed by a predator.
Certain apes and marmots have developed specific alarm calls that communicate the category of predators or the distance of predators to other group members.

It has been proposed that an alarm call is an adaptation that helps them survive daily encounters with predators.

But the risk a predator represents to its prey is also contingent on the behaviour of the predator, so it would be an advantage for survival to be able to communicate whether the predators are in hunting mode or are full and contented, said Michael Griesser, a researcher at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Uppsala University.

During the research, it was found that Siberian jays have different alarm calls for hawks that are sitting, searching for prey, or attacking.

With the help of a playback experiment in which the researchers played the various alarm calls for Siberian jays, Griesser was able to demonstrate that the alarm call is enough to get Siberian jays to evince a situation-specific fleeing behaviour.

When these birds hear the call, they fly up to the tops of trees and look for the hawk. The attack call prompts them to flee to the closest refuge as quickly as possible and then to start to look for the hawk.

Playing the call that is given for hawks searching for prey gets the jays to flee to the nearest refuge and stay there without moving, for several minutes, to avoid being discovered by the hawk.

These findings are astonishing and show for the first time that animals can assess and communicate about the behaviour of their predators, and that not only mammals but also birds have developed advanced communication systems, Griesser said.

Together with the new study, this shows for the first time that alarm calls actually do boost the survival of other individuals.

This research is being published in the journal Current Biology. (ANI)

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