Killer instinct: understanding the evolution of flexible predatory strategies (#841)
Stalking, luring, active pursuit and ambushing are just some of the diverse strategies predators adopt to catch prey. Some predators adopt just one specialised predatory strategy that is honed to the perceptual or physical abilities of their prey. However, other predators have the ability to adopt multiple predatory strategies, adapting their tactics to suit the prevailing environmental conditions or prey type - termed a flexible, or conditional, predatory strategy. While there is a rich history of assessing how flexibility in anti-predator behaviour influences predator-prey interactions, the influence of flexibility in predator behavior on predation success, or the factors that drive the evolution of multiple predatory strategies is less understood. Prey type, considered at the level of species, ecological niche and/or relative size, is known to have a large influence on predatory strategy. But the decision rules underlying switches in strategy and the interacting effects of predator condition, predator experience and environmental factors on the evolution and maintenance of multiple predatory strategies are relatively unknown. Here, I will present preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that the evolution of flexible predatory strategies is driven by diverse prey types and the risks posed to predators by dangerous prey.