Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Biology

Supervisor

Dr. Liana Zanette

Abstract

Predators affect prey populations not only through direct killing, but also through perceived predation risk – the ‘fear’ of predators. Responding to predation risk is critical for prey survival, however perceived predation risk can have lasting effects ranging from individual changes in neurobiology up to population level effects. I manipulated perceived predation risk using auditory playbacks of predators or non-predators in wild caught black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) in acoustic isolation and wild caught brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) in large outdoor aviaries. I found changes in dendritic morphology and inhibited neurogenesis in response to increased perceived predation risk lasting at least one week. I also found changes in both escape behaviour and in the response to a conspecific alarm call. My research shows that perceived predation risk has long-lasting effects on both the brain and behaviour, with applications for both ecologists and biomedical researchers.


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