Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) awareness of neighbours’ vigilance is spatially explicit
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Black-tailed prairie dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus, gauge neighbour vigilance through jump yipping, a contagious, multimodal display where individuals vocalize while jumping upward. Jump-yip bouts were recorded using three camcorders across 27 sites within the Dakotas to examine how instigator location and spatiotemporal pattern of conspecific response within bouts influence instigator vigilance, thereby testing whether instigator knowledge of conspecific vigilance is spatially explicit. Video files were analyzed to determine if instigators disproportionately devoted personal vigilance following jump-yip bouts toward areas of conspecific non-responsiveness over areas with conspecific response. Paired-sample tests indicated that instigators oriented vigilance toward non-responsive areas significantly more than areas of responsiveness after both current (Z = -4.74, P = 0.0001) and past jump-yip bouts (Z = 0.42, P = 0.0001). Instigators direct personal vigilance toward areas where predators may go undetected, demonstrating spatiotemporal awareness of conspecific vigilance, and thus utilizing both public and personal information to minimize predation risk.