Zebra reduce predation risk in mixed-species herds by eavesdropping on cues from giraffe

Predation risk of individuals moving in multispecies herds may be lower due to the heightened ability of the different species to detect predators (i.e., mixed-species effect). The giraffe is the tallest land mammal, maintains high vigilance levels, and has good eyesight. As a result, heterospecific herd members could reduce their predation risk if they keyed off the giraffe’s antipredator behaviors. However, because giraffe rarely use audible alarm snorts, heterospecifics would need to eavesdrop on cues given off by the giraffe that indicate predator presence (e.g., body posture), to benefit from herding with giraffe. To test this, we compared the vigilance of zebra herding with conspecifics, with those herding with giraffe. Our results indicate that giraffe reduce zebra vigilance in zebra–giraffe herds and that in these herds, giraffe are the primary source of information regarding predation risk. In contrast, when zebra herd with conspecifics, they rely primarily on personal information gleaned from their environment, as opposed to obtaining information from conspecifics about predation risk.

Publish DateMay 22, 2020
Last UpdatedJanuary 27, 2021
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