A synthesis of deimatic behaviour

Eleanor Drinkwater, William L. Allen, John A. Endler, Roger T. Hanlon, Grace Holmes, Nicholas T. Homziak, Changku Kang, Brian C. Leavell, Jussi Lehtonen, Karl Loeffler-Henry, John M. Ratcliffe, Candy Rowe, Graeme D. Ruxton, Tom N. Sherratt, John Skelhorn, Chelsea Skojec, Hannah R. Smart, Thomas E. White, Jayne E. Yack, Catherine M. YoungKate D.L. Umbers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Deimatic behaviours, also referred to as startle behaviours, are used against predators and rivals. Although many are spectacular, their proximate and ultimate causes remain unclear. In this review we aim to synthesise what is known about deimatic behaviour and identify knowledge gaps. We propose a working hypothesis for deimatic behaviour, and discuss the available evidence for the evolution, ontogeny, causation, and survival value of deimatic behaviour using Tinbergen's Four Questions as a framework. Our overarching aim is to direct future research by suggesting ways to address the most pressing questions in this field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2237-2267
Number of pages31
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number6
Early online date8 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Antipredator
  • Aposematism
  • Behaviour
  • Cognition
  • Competition
  • Defence
  • Deimatism
  • Predator
  • Prey
  • Startle


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