1-3 Thursday, Jan. 4 08:30 - 08:45 Stage-specific predation risk affects morphology, performance, and survival: an experimental test. MOUTON, JC*; WRIGHT, NA; TOBALSKE, BW; MARTIN, TE; MTCWRU, Univ. of Montana, Missoula, MT; Kenyon College, Gambier, OH; Univ. of Montana, Missoula, MT; USGS, MTCWRU, Univ. of Montana, Missoula, MT email@example.com
Predation is an important source of mortality and selection in wild populations across taxa. Where predation risk is predictable and heterogeneous, prey species are expected to evolve adaptive plasticity in traits that reduce the likelihood of being killed and eaten by predators. In young organisms, plastic responses to stage-specific predation risk are especially important because young tend to be particularly vulnerable and eventually life stage transitions can allow young to escape the risk all together. However, such plasticity may incur survival costs in later life stages from carry-over effects on phenotypic traits such as locomotor performance. Correlated shifts in behaviors, such as activity levels or microhabitat selection, may mitigate these costs in the wild, but strong tests in natural systems are lacking. We show that young songbirds exposed to high perceived nest predation risk leave the nest with less developed locomotor traits (e.g. shorter wings) and examine their flight performance, habitat selection, and survival after leaving the nest. Understanding how plastic responses to predation risk affect fitness later in life in natural systems promises to shed light on what limits the evolution of phenotypes.