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Journal Articles Animal Behaviour Year : 2017

Mobbing calls: a signal transcending species boundaries


When they detect a predator, some prey exhibit mobbing behaviour and produce mobbing calls that quickly draw a mixed conspecific and heterospecific group against the predator. While the efficiency of this strategy is often linked to interspecific communication, it raises the question of how animals recognize these signals as mobbing calls. It is usually suggested that associative learning about a predator when heterospecific mobbing calls are heard plays a crucial role in communication among species. Alternatively, phylogenetic conservation or evolutionary convergence could also explain this communication process. To determine whether prior experience is required to express a mobbing response, we conducted playback experiments with four European passerine species: great tit, Parus major, blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, coal tit, Periparus ater, and common chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs. The aim of the study was to examine whether they would respond to the mobbing signals of several North American passerines. As expected, because natural selection might shape a strong response to conspecific mobbing calls, our focal species reacted more strongly towards their own mobbing calls than towards those of American species. Nevertheless, for the three European species of tit, prior experience of heterospecific mobbing calls was not required to elicit a response. Additionally, for great tit and chaffinch, we found that acoustic similarity could explain behavioural responses to allopatric species. In contrast, such similarity was probably not the main mechanism underlying the response for the other two European species. Heterospecific response to mobbing calls probably involved many different mechanisms. Further studies focusing on each of these should allow us to understand their relative contribution to heterospecific communication.
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hal-01619498 , version 1 (30-08-2022)



Mylène Dutour, Jean-Paul Léna, Thierry Lengagne. Mobbing calls: a signal transcending species boundaries. Animal Behaviour, 2017, 131, pp.3 - 11. ⟨10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.07.004⟩. ⟨hal-01619498⟩
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