Bearding the scorpion in his den: desert isopods take risks to validate their ‘landscape of fear’ assessment

27 May 2019

Zaguri, Moshe; Hawlena, Dror

Animals balance the risk of predation against other vital needs by adjusting their spatial behavior to match spatiotemporal variation in predation risk. To map this ‘landscape of fear’, prey use evolutionary rules of thumbs that are associated with the activity and hunting efficiency of predators. In addition, prey acquire perceptual information about the presence, identity, and state of potential predators and use these cues to focus their acute anti-predatory responses. Our goal was to explore if and how prey also use such perceptual information that decays with time to update their spatiotemporal risk assessment. We placed scorpions in freshly dug burrows and recorded the isopods’ spatial activity and their defense behavior upon encountering the burrows straight after settling the scorpions and seven days later. To corroborate our understanding, we also examined the isopods’ detailed reactions towards deserted scorpion burrows. The isopods reacted defensively to scorpion burrows during their first encounter. After seven days, proportionally more isopods approached the scorpion burrows on their way out for foraging and fewer isopods encountered it on their way back. No changes in the spatial activity were observed towards deserted burrows. In addition, on the eighth day, more isopods entered the risky area near the scorpion burrows when leaving their own burrow than on the first encounter. The results suggest that isopods used predator cues to readjust the ‘landscape of fear’. Yet, rather than avoiding the dangerous areas altogether, the isopods implemented risky inspection behavior, validating whether the danger is actual. Our findings imply that inspection behavior toward predators can be used for future planning of prey spatial activity, offsetting possible ‘information decay costs’.

Doi
10.1111/oik.06477