Cooperative sentinel calling? Foragers gain increased biomass intake

Linda I. Hollen, Matthew B. V. Bell, Andrew N. Radford

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Abstract / Description of output

Many foraging animals face a fundamental tradeoff between predation and starvation 1and2. In a range of social species, this tradeoff has probably driven the evolution of sentinel behavior, where individuals adopt prominent positions to watch for predators while groupmates forage [3]. Although there has been much debate about whether acting asa sentinel is a selfish or cooperative behavior 3, 4, 5and6, far less attention has focused on why sentinels often produce quiet vocalizations (hereafter known as “sentinel calls”) to announce their presence 7and8. We use observational and experimental data to provide the first evidence that group members gain an increase in foraging success by responding to these vocal cues given by sentinels. Foraging pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) spread out more, use more exposed patches, look up less often, and spend less time vigilant in response to sentinel calling. Crucially, we demonstrate that these behavioral alterations lead to an increase in biomass intake by foragers, which is likely to enhance survival. We argue that this benefit may be the reason for sentinel calling, making it a truly cooperative behavior [9].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-579
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2008

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