The effects of familiarity on escape responses in the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

Hayley Wolcott, Alfredo F. Ojanguren, Miguel Barbosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Predation is the main cause of mortality during early life stages. The ability to avoid and evade potential threats is, therefore, favoured to evolve during the early stages of life. It is also during these early stages that the process of familiarization occurs. It has long been recognized that associating with familiar individuals confers antipredator benefits. Yet gaps in our knowledge remain about how predator evasion is affected by social experience during early stages. In this study, we test the hypothesis that familiarization acquired during early life stages improves escape responses. Using the guppy Poecilia reticulata, we examine the effect of different recent social conditions in the three main components of predator evasion. Using high-speed motion analysis, we compared the number of individuals in each test group that responded to a visual stimulus, their reactive distance and magnitude of their response (maximum speed, maximum acceleration and distance) in groups composed either of familiar or non-familiar individuals. Contrary to the prediction, groups composed of familiar individuals were less responsive than groups of unfamiliar individuals. Reactive distance and magnitude of response were more dependent on individual size rather than on familiarity. Larger individuals reached higher maximum speeds and total distances in their escape response. Our result indicates that familiarity is likely to affect behaviour earlier in a predator-prey interaction, which then affects the behavioural component of the response. Taken together, our study contributes to previous ones by distinguishing which components of an escape response are modulated by familiarity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3899
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2017


  • Predator evasion
  • Escape response
  • Antipredator benefits
  • Familiarity
  • Early social conditions


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