Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Transmission of a novel predatory behaviour is not restricted to kin.

Abstract

Corvids are exceptional predators which can become problematic and difficult to manage due to their adaptability, intelligence, and abundance. On Phillip Island (Victoria, Australia) little ravens (Corvus mellori) prey on the eggs of burrow-nesting little penguins (Eudyptula minor) at an ecologically and economically significant colony. Raven depredation of penguin clutches is intense but appears to have emerged only in recent years. Understanding whether or how the behaviour is transferred provides an opportunity to disrupt this undesirable behaviour. We explore the role genetic relatedness may have on the occurrence of raven burrow-raiding behaviour. We test an hypothesis regarding one specific scenario of possible transmission, namely that ravens preying upon eggs/young in penguin nests share genetic traits that facilitate burrow raiding, and are therefore more genetically related than birds which do not raid burrows. Using 15 microsatellite loci, we found no significant difference in mean relatedness between culprits and other birds. Burrow-raiding behaviour does not appear to be restricted to kin, and targeting ravens based solely on their relationship to culprits is unlikely to reduce depredation rates. However, targeting known culprits may slow transmission of burrow-raiding behaviour.