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      Alarm calls modulate the spatial structure of a breeding owl community.

      1 , ,
      Proceedings. Biological sciences
      The Royal Society

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          Abstract

          Animals should continuously assess the threat of predation. Alarm calls inform on predation risk and are often used as cues to shape behavioural responses in birds and mammals. Hitherto, however, the ecological consequences of alarm calls in terms of organization of animal communities have been neglected. Here, we show experimentally that calls of a resident nocturnal raptor, the little owl Athene noctua, triggered a response in terms of breeding habitat selection and investment in current reproduction in conspecifics and heterospecifics. Little owls preferred to settle in territories where calls of conspecifics, irrespective of their type (i.e. alarm versus contact calls), were broadcasted, indicating that either conspecific attraction exists or calls are interpreted as foreign calls, eliciting settlement as a mode of defence against competitors. Also, we found that little owls seemed to invest more in current reproduction in safe territories as revealed by conspecific calls. Innovatively, we reported that a second owl species, the migratory scops owl Otus scops, preferred to breed in safe territories as indicated by little owls' calls. These results evidence that the emission of alarm calls may have, apart from well-known behavioural effects, ecological consequences in natural communities by inducing species-specific biases in breeding habitat selection. This study demonstrates a previously unsuspected informative role of avian alarm calls which may modulate the spatial structure of species within communities.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Proc. Biol. Sci.
          Proceedings. Biological sciences
          The Royal Society
          1471-2954
          0962-8452
          Jun 07 2012
          : 279
          : 1736
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Departamento de Ecología Funcional y Evolutiva, Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (CSIC), Carretera de Sacramento s/n, 04120, La Cañada de San Urbano, Almería, Spain. parejo@eeza.csic.es
          Article
          rspb.2011.2601
          10.1098/rspb.2011.2601
          3321719
          22279165
          a3c4c625-e78a-4232-978f-43f7c048bd94
          History

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