Prey evolve warning defences if predators learn, but how does a population of predators learn?
Social learning is a well-demonstrated method by which animals acquire knowledge about where they should forage, and what they should eat. Much of this work has focussed on learning about tasty food, or receiving positive rewards - but predators may also learn what food to avoid by observing others. If many predators observe the disgust responses of one naive predator tasting a novel prey item, then fewer prey will die.
We are using a mix of experiments in the wild, and experiments with birds in captivity to address whether social information is used by predators to learn about novel warning signals, and how this influences selection and rates of evolution.
Thorogood R, Kokko H, Mappes J. (2017) Social transmission of avoidance among predators facilitates the spread of novel prey. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0418-x
Hämäläinen L, Rowland HM, Mappes J, Thorogood R. (2017) Can video playback provide social information for foraging blue tits?. PeerJ, 5, e3062.