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Journal Articles International Journal of Primatology Year : 2022

Primate–Predator Interactions: Is There a Mismatch Between Laboratory and Ecological Evidence?


Abundant empirical and theoretical studies indicate that predation is a key driver of primate evolution. The Snake Detection Theory (SDT) posits that snakes have been the main predators of primates since the late Cretaceous and that they influenced the diversification and evolution of primates. Laboratory research focusing on the innate ability of primates to detect snakes amid complex visual stimuli has provided strong support for key tenets of the SDT. While this theory has greatly contributed to our knowledge of primate evolution, supporting experimental studies may have overly focused on snakes and disregarded other important predators. This potential sampling bias weakens the conclusion that primates respond with a specific (high) intensity to snakes compared to other predators. We reviewed the literature about primate-predator interactions under natural and experimental conditions. We listed the primate and predator species involved in natural versus experimental studies. Predation events on primates recorded in the field mainly involved other primates, then raptors and carnivorans. SDT-related experimental studies heavily focused on snakes as predator stimuli and did not include raptors. Other experimental studies largely used snakes and primates and to a lesser extent carnivorans. Apes were the most often tested primates in experimental studies, whereas other primate taxa were neglected. Moreover, predators used as stimuli in experimental studies were inaccurately identified, notably snakes. Altogether, our results show that SDT-related studies neglected most of the major natural predators of primates. SDT studies also focused on a handful of primate species, whereas the theory relies on comparisons among taxa. Finally, poor taxonomic information on snakes used as stimuli blurs the interpretation of their relationship with primates. We suggest that future studies test the SDT by presenting a wide range of predators to different primate species to improve our understanding of the complexity of predator–prey interactions.
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hal-03874786 , version 1 (06-02-2023)



Karl Zeller, Cécile Garcia, Audrey Maille, Julie Duboscq, Luca Morino, et al.. Primate–Predator Interactions: Is There a Mismatch Between Laboratory and Ecological Evidence?. International Journal of Primatology, In press, ⟨10.1007/s10764-022-00331-w⟩. ⟨hal-03874786⟩
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