Deception down under: Is Australia a hot spot for deception?

  • Herberstein M
  • Baldwin H
  • Gaskett A
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Abstract

The Australian continent is renowned for its idiosyncratic flora and fauna and high diversity of endemic taxa (e.g., Eucalyptus, marsupials, and monotremes; Braithwaite RW. 1990. Australia's unique biota: implications for ecological processes. J Biogeogr. 17:347–354.). Given this diversity, it is perhaps not surprising that Australia is a coveted and productive field site for behavioral ecolo-gists worldwide. The prevalence of some unusual animal behaviors is well documented, such as cooperative breeding in birds, low rates of herbivory, and high rates of pollination by vertebrates. However, other behavioral phenomena, especially those involving deception and exploitation, are also remarkably prevalent in some systems and still require comprehensive treatment. We examine 3 distinct forms of deception in entirely different taxa, cuckoos, crab spiders, and orchids, where there is strong evidence that decep-tion is more prevalent in Australia than in other geographic regions. We offer several explanations addressing environmental condi-tions, evolutionary isolation, the prevalence of behavioral ecologists, and the research culture in Australia. The aim of this " Idea " paper is to draw attention to intriguing patterns of deception in a limited number of well-studied systems and to generate several testable predictions. It is not intended as a thorough review of all deceptive systems, but we hope to stimulate more research, a sys-tematic review, and further testing in this area.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Crab spider
  • Cuckoo
  • Deception
  • Evolution
  • Orchid

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Authors

  • Marie E. Herberstein

  • Heather J. Baldwin

  • Anne C. Gaskett

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