Island tameness and the repeatability of flight initiation distance in a large herbivore
Canadian Journal of Zoology
NRC Research Press / Canadian Society of Zoologists
© 2017, Canadian Science Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
Antipredator behaviours can be lost relatively quickly in populations that are relieved of predation, as is known for several species inhabiting islands. Flight initiation distance (FID) is often studied in the context of island tameness; however, little is known about the factors that influence and maintain FID variation in predation-free populations. Here, we studied FID in foals of an isolated predator-free population of feral horses (Equus caballus L., 1758) on Sable Island, Canada, to determine if FID could be used for research on consistent individual differences in risk aversion and island tameness. In addition to testing for temporal, spatial, and sex effects on FID, we compared repeatability estimates at two temporal scales (within and among days). Similar FID for measurements obtained on the same day and for males and females indicated an absence of short-term desensitization and sex effects. In contrast, FID decreased for measurements made on subsequent days and from east to west, which could reflect habituation to human presence and (or) other temporal and spatial processes. Repeatability was high (0.42 ± 0.06), but tended to decrease with increasing time intervals. This study highlights the potential of FID for individual-based research on the ecology and evolutionary dynamics of risk aversion in predation-free populations.
Funding was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC Discovery Grant No. 371535-2009 to P.D.M.), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (Leaders Opportunity Grant No. 25046 to P.D.M.), and a Royal Society International Exchange grant (J.P. and P.D.M.). D.A. was supported by an NSERC Ph.D. scholarship. D.C. received support from the University of Exeter M.Sc. program in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology. J.P. was supported by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from NRC Research Press via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 95 (10), pp. 771 - 778