1. Ecology
  2. Evolutionary Biology
Download icon

Signal categorization by foraging animals depends on ecological diversity

  1. David William Kikuchi  Is a corresponding author
  2. Anna Dornhaus
  3. Vandana Gopeechund
  4. Thomas N Sherratt
  1. University of Arizona, United States
  2. Carleton University, Canada
Research Article
  • Cited 5
  • Views 820
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e43965 doi: 10.7554/eLife.43965

Abstract

Warning signals displayed by defended prey are mimicked by both mutualistic (Müllerian) and parasitic (Batesian) species. Yet mimicry is often imperfect: why does selection not improve mimicry? Predators create selection on warning signals, so predator psychology is crucial to understanding mimicry. We conducted experiments where humans acted as predators in a virtual ecosystem to ask how prey diversity affects the way that predators categorize prey phenotypes as profitable or unprofitable. The phenotypic diversity of prey communities strongly affected predator categorization. Higher diversity increased the likelihood that predators would use a 'key' trait to form broad categories, even if it meant committing errors. Broad categorization favors the evolution of mimicry. Both species richness and evenness contributed significantly to this effect. This lets us view the behavioral and evolutionary processes leading to mimicry in light of classical community ecology. Broad categorization by receivers is also likely to affect other forms of signaling.

Data availability

All data for this study are present in the supporting files, and source code to produce the figures from those files is included in the Supplementary RMarkdown file.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. David William Kikuchi

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
    For correspondence
    dwkikuchi@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7379-2788
  2. Anna Dornhaus

    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Vandana Gopeechund

    Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Thomas N Sherratt

    Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

National Institutes of Health (K12GM000708)

  • David William Kikuchi

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

  • Thomas N Sherratt

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: Consent process is described in the Methods. Human subjects research was carried out with the permission of the Carleton University Research Ethics Board-B under permit number 13385 14-0276.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Bernhard Schmid, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Publication history

  1. Received: November 28, 2018
  2. Accepted: April 24, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: April 25, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: May 10, 2019 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2019, Kikuchi et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 820
    Page views
  • 107
    Downloads
  • 5
    Citations

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Further reading

    1. Ecology
    2. Epidemiology and Global Health
    David R M Smith et al.
    Research Article

    The human microbiome can protect against colonization with pathogenic antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB), but its impacts on the spread of antibiotic resistance are poorly understood. We propose a mathematical modelling framework for ARB epidemiology formalizing within-host ARB-microbiome competition, and impacts of antibiotic consumption on microbiome function. Applied to the healthcare setting, we demonstrate a trade-off whereby antibiotics simultaneously clear bacterial pathogens and increase host susceptibility to their colonization, and compare this framework with a traditional strain-based approach. At the population level, microbiome interactions drive ARB incidence, but not resistance rates, reflecting distinct epidemiological relevance of different forces of competition. Simulating a range of public health interventions (contact precautions, antibiotic stewardship, microbiome recovery therapy) and pathogens (Clostridioides difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, multidrug-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) highlights how species-specific within-host ecological interactions drive intervention efficacy. We find limited impact of contact precautions for Enterobacteriaceae prevention, and a promising role for microbiome-targeted interventions to limit ARB spread.

    1. Ecology
    Piero Amodio et al.
    Research Article

    Eurasian jays have been reported to protect their caches by responding to cues about either the visual perspective or current desire of an observing conspecific, similarly to other corvids. Here, we used established paradigms to test whether these birds can - like humans - integrate multiple cues about different mental states and perform an optimal response accordingly. Across five experiments, which also include replications of previous work, we found little evidence that our jays adjusted their caching behaviour in line with the visual perspective and current desire of another agent, neither by integrating these social cues nor by responding to only one type of cue independently. These results raise questions about the reliability of the previously reported effects and highlight several key issues affecting reliability in comparative cognition research.