Research Highlights

Nature 455, 711 (9 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455711d; Published online 8 October 2008

Zoology: Dik dik trick

Behav. Ecol. doi:10.1093/beheco/arn064 (2008)

Zoology: Dik dik trick

W. BOLLMANN/PHOTOLIBRARY

Of the animals that understand other species' vocalizations, almost all are social creatures with complex calls of their own. But ecologists have identified an eavesdropper that is neither social nor particularly vocal: the dik-dik.

Daniel Blumstein and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, suspected that Gunther's dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri; pictured), a heavily predated miniature antelope, could benefit from eavesdropping. To find out whether it does, the researchers played alarm calls of the white-bellied go-away bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster) and non-alarmist calls from the slate-coloured boubou (Laniarius funebris) to a group of dik-diks at the Mpala Research Centre in Laikaipia, Kenya.

The dik-diks in the study decreased their foraging and increased their head-turning only in response to the alarm calls.