Fear affects parental care, which predicts juvenile survival and exacerbates the total cost of fear on demography
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Fear itself (perceived predation risk) can affect wildlife demography, but the cumulative impact of fear on population dynamics is not well understood. Parental care is arguably what most distinguishes birds and mammals from other taxa, yet only one experiment on wildlife has tested fear effects on parental food provisioning and the repercussions this has for the survival of dependent offspring, and only during early-stage care. We tested the effect of fear on late-stage parental care of mobile dependent offspring, by locating radio-tagged Song Sparrow fledglings and broadcasting predator or non-predator playbacks in their vicinity, measuring their parent's behavior and their own, and tracking the offspring's survival to independence. Fear significantly reduced late-stage parental care, and parental fearfulness (as indexed by their reduction in provisioning when hearing predators) significantly predicted their offspring's condition and survival. Combining results from this experiment with that on early-stage care, we project that fear itself is powerful enough to reduce late-stage survival by 24%, and cumulatively reduce the number of young reaching independence by more than half, 53%. Experiments in invertebrate and aquatic systems demonstrate that fear is commonly as important as direct killing in affecting prey demography, and we suggest focusing more on fear effects and on offspring survival will reveal the same for wildlife.