Ontogeny of the responses of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to aerial and ground predators

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Abstract

The responses of adult (6-9 months old) and young (5-8 weeks old) rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to their natural predators were tested. The aims of our experiments were to investigate whether (i) inexperienced rabbits would avoid a stuffed goshawk but not a non-bird-like control object and (ii) adult rabbits would behave differently toward an aerial and a terrestrial predator model on their first encounter, and (iii) to compare the inherited antipredator behaviour of adult and young rabbits toward the two types of predators. We tested only naive rabbits and used a stuffed goshawk and fox as predators. Our results showed that under controlled laboratory conditions (i) a stuffed predator could elicit avoidance behaviour in rabbits without previous experience with predators; (ii) adult rabbits behaved differently toward the stuffed fox and goshawk; (iii) the behaviour of young rabbits was less differentiated, and their 'quantitative' response developed into the adults' well-structured defensive behaviour without any experience with predators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-665
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume78
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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Oryctolagus cuniculus
ontogeny
rabbits
predator
predators
foxes
defensive behavior
avoidance behavior
young

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

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title = "Ontogeny of the responses of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to aerial and ground predators",
abstract = "The responses of adult (6-9 months old) and young (5-8 weeks old) rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to their natural predators were tested. The aims of our experiments were to investigate whether (i) inexperienced rabbits would avoid a stuffed goshawk but not a non-bird-like control object and (ii) adult rabbits would behave differently toward an aerial and a terrestrial predator model on their first encounter, and (iii) to compare the inherited antipredator behaviour of adult and young rabbits toward the two types of predators. We tested only naive rabbits and used a stuffed goshawk and fox as predators. Our results showed that under controlled laboratory conditions (i) a stuffed predator could elicit avoidance behaviour in rabbits without previous experience with predators; (ii) adult rabbits behaved differently toward the stuffed fox and goshawk; (iii) the behaviour of young rabbits was less differentiated, and their 'quantitative' response developed into the adults' well-structured defensive behaviour without any experience with predators.",
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