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When more is less: the fitness consequences of predators attacking more unpalatable prey when more are presented

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Rowland, H. M., Wiley, E., Ruxton, G. D., Mappes, J., & Speed, M. P. (2010). When more is less: the fitness consequences of predators attacking more unpalatable prey when more are presented. Biology Letters, 6(6), 732-735. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0207.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-C6DF-D
Abstract
In 1879, Fritz Muller hypothesized that mimetic resemblance in which defended prey display the same warning signal would share the costs of predator education. Although Muller argued that predators would need to ingest a fixed number of prey with a given visual signal when learning to avoid unpalatable prey, this assumption lacks empirical support. We report an experiment which shows that, as the number of unpalatable prey presented to them increased, avian predators attacked higher numbers of those prey. We calculated that, when predators increase attacks, the fitness costs incurred by unpalatable prey can be substantial. This suggests that the survival benefits of mimicry could be lower than Muller proposed. An important finding is, however, that these costs decline in importance as the total number of available prey increases.