Rapid learning in a native predator shifts diet preferences towards invasive prey.
Biological invasions often exert negative impacts on native communities and can disrupt a range of biotic interactions such as those between predators and prey. For example, when invasive species alter the foraging landscape, native predators can fail to recognize them as profitable prey because of unfamiliarity. This study therefore investigated whether a native predator (rock lobster Jasus lalandii) can develop a new preference for an invasive prey (mussel Semimytilus patagonicus) following conditioning through a short-term exposure. Conditioned lobsters, exposed to only S. patagonicus for a month, demonstrated a significant change in preference for the novel invasive prey, which was found to contrast with non-conditioned lobsters that continued to show predator preferences toward a native mussel (Choromytilus meridionalis). There is therefore potential for native predators such as J. lalandii to adapt and switch towards feeding on an abundant invasive prey, even if they avoid it at first. This indicates that rapid learning can occur in a species exposed to novel food resources and demonstrates that native species can adapt to biological invasions.