Evidence for individual discrimination and numerical assessment in collective antipredator behaviour in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula)
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Coomes, Jenny R.
McIvor, Guillam E.
Collective responses to threats occur throughout the animal kingdom but little is known about the cognitive processes underpinning them. Antipredator mobbing is one such response. Approaching a predator may be highly risky, but the individual risk declines and the likelihood of repelling the predator increases in larger mobbing groups. The ability to appraise the number of conspecifics involved in a mobbing event could therefore facilitate strategic decisions about whether to join. Mobs are commonly initiated by recruitment calls, which may provide valuable information to guide decision-making. We tested whether the number of wild jackdaws responding to recruitment calls was influenced by the number of callers. As predicted, playbacks simulating three or five callers tended to recruit more individuals than playbacks of one caller. Recruitment also substantially increased if recruits themselves produced calls. These results suggest that jackdaws use individual vocal discrimination to assess the number of conspecifics involved in initiating mobbing events, and use this information to guide their responses. Our results show support for the use of numerical assessment in antipredator mobbing responses and highlight the need for a greater understanding of the cognitive processes involved in collective behaviour.
Corvus monedula , Antipredator , Numerical assessment , Individual discrimination , Collective behaviour
Coomes, J. R., McIvor, G. E. and Thornton, A. (2019) 'Evidence for individual discrimination and numerical assessment in collective antipredator behaviour in wild jackdaws (Corvus monedula)', Biology Letters, 15(10), 20190380. (6pp.) DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2019.0380