Science Daily is reporting on an interesting study – published in Animal Behavior – comparing responses to fawn distress calls:
An intriguing study of mule deer and whitetail deer conducted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and the University of Lethbridge, also in Canada, showed that both species responded to the recorded distress calls of fawns, similar to the responses elicited when coyotes attack fawns, with mule deer mothers responding to both whitetail and mule deer calls, even when their own fawn stood next to them. In contrast, the whitetail mothers responded only to their own species’ call, and only when they could not see their own fawn.
“The fact that mule deer ran to the speaker when their own fawn was standing next to them safe and sound revealed they do not help other fawns because they mistake them for their own [emphasis mine – afarensis],” said lead author Susan Lingle, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral fellow in biological sciences at the University of Alberta and in psychology at the University of Lethbridge.
Researchers relate the behavior to differences in predator avoidance strategies. Mule deers have a more aggressive response to predators, while white tailed deer prefer to flee (they also suffer higher fawn predation than mule deer).
Filed under: Evolution