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The role of associative learning process on the response of fledgling great tits (Parus major) to mobbing calls

Abstract : When they detect a predator, many species emit antipredator vocalizations. In some cases, they emit mobbing calls, which are associated with the caller approaching and harassing the predator while attracting others to join it. Surprisingly, although mobbing has been widely reported in adults of numerous species, there has been no test of the role of learning in mobbing call recognition, especially during ontogeny. Here, we exposed wild great tit (Parus major) nestlings to playbacks of an unthreatening, novel sound either associated with conspecific mobbing calls (experimental treatment) or with another unthreatening novel sound (control treatment). We then tested them as nestlings and fledglings to see how responses to the novel sound compared to conspecific mobbing calls. Results revealed that fledglings in the experimental treatment behaved similarly to conspecific mobbing calls and the novel sound associated with conspecific mobbing calls. Because mobbing efficiency is often linked to interspecific communication, associative learning should be used by heterospecifics as a mobbing calls recognition mechanism. Regardless of treatment during the nestling phase, fledglings always were sensitive to the playback of conspecific mobbing calls. However, fledglings from the control group were more likely to approach the loudspeaker than those from the experimental group when mobbing calls were played, suggesting that overexposure during the nestling phase altered mobbing learning. Overall, these results suggest that learning could play a role in the recognition of calls, like heterospecific mobbing calls, when paired with conspecific mobbing, and that mobbing is perceived as a threatening stimulus from a very young age.
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https://hal-univ-lyon1.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02328411
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 16, 2021 - 10:31:22 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, May 25, 2022 - 3:47:03 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 6:01:10 PM

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Mylène Dutour, Jean-Paul Léna, Adeline Dumet, Vanessa Gardette, Nathalie Mondy, et al.. The role of associative learning process on the response of fledgling great tits (Parus major) to mobbing calls. Animal Cognition, Springer Verlag (Germany), 2019, 22 (6), pp.1095-1103. ⟨10.1007/s10071-019-01301-1⟩. ⟨hal-02328411⟩

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