The evolution and ecology of multiple antipredator defences

David W. Kikuchi, William L. Allen, Kevin Arbuckle, Thomas G. Aubier, Emmanuelle S. Briolat, Emily R. Burdfield‐Steel, Karen L. Cheney, Klára Daňková, Marianne Elias, Liisa Hämäläinen, Marie E. Herberstein, Thomas J. Hossie, Mathieu Joron, Krushnamegh Kunte, Brian C. Leavell, Carita Lindstedt, Ugo Lorioux‐Chevalier, Melanie McClure, Callum F. McLellan, Iliana MedinaViraj Nawge, Erika Páez, Arka Pal, Stano Pekár, Olivier Penacchio, Jan Raška, Tom Reader, Bibiana Rojas, Katja H. Rönkä, Daniela C. Rößler, Candy Rowe, Hannah M. Rowland, Arlety Roy, Kaitlin A. Schaal, Thomas N. Sherratt, John Skelhorn, Hannah R. Smart, Ted Stankowich, Amanda M. Stefan, Kyle Summers, Christopher H. Taylor, Rose Thorogood, Kate Umbers, Anne E. Winters, Justin Yeager, Alice Exnerová

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Prey seldom rely on a single type of antipredator defence, often using multiple defences to avoid predation. In many cases, selection in different contexts may favour the evolution of multiple defences in a prey. However, a prey may use multiple defences to protect itself during a single predator encounter. Such “defence portfolios” that defend prey against a single instance of predation are distributed across and within successive stages of the predation sequence (encounter, detection, identification, approach (attack), subjugation and consumption). We contend that at present, our understanding of defence portfolio evolution is incomplete, and seen from the fragmentary perspective of specific sensory systems (e.g., visual) or specific types of defences (especially aposematism). In this review, we aim to build a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing the evolution of multiple prey defences, beginning with hypotheses for the evolution of multiple defences in general, and defence portfolios in particular. We then examine idealized models of resource trade-offs and functional interactions between traits, along with evidence supporting them. We find that defence portfolios are constrained by resource allocation to other aspects of life history, as well as functional incompatibilities between different defences. We also find that selection is likely to favour combinations of defences that have synergistic effects on predator behaviour and prey survival. Next, we examine specific aspects of prey ecology, genetics and development, and predator cognition that modify the predictions of current hypotheses or introduce competing hypotheses. We outline schema for gathering data on the distribution of prey defences across species and geography, determining how multiple defences are produced, and testing the proximate mechanisms by which multiple prey defences impact predator behaviour. Adopting these approaches will strengthen our understanding of multiple defensive strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-991
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number7
Early online date26 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Antergy
  • Defence portfolio
  • Defence syndrome
  • Instraspecific variation
  • Predation sequence
  • Predator cognition
  • Secondary defences
  • Synergy
  • Trade-offs


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