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ThreatsIntimidation and Its Discontents$
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David P. Barash

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190055295

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190055295.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 27 October 2020

The Natural World

The Natural World

(p.7) Section 1 The Natural World

David P. Barash

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how threats, counterthreats, warnings, feints, and deceptions are found throughout the natural world, in the daily lives of animals and even plants. Indeed, these can be seen in plants with thorns and poisons, as well as in animals growling, roaring, baring teeth, showing and exaggerating their weapons (or pretending to have weapons), misrepresenting their ferocity, puffing themselves up, and generally seeking to intimidate their rivals or potential predators. The chapter then considers the role of honesty versus deception: the evolution of warning coloration, whereby brightly colored poison arrow frogs, for example, inform would-be predators that eating them would be a bad idea; and mimicry, in which animals who are not themselves especially dangerous resemble others that are harmful to their predators and thus gain protection via the “empty threat” the former conveys. This, in turn, speaks to the intriguing question of whether a given threat is real or fake, honest or dishonest, and what difference—if any—this makes. The chapter also explains the hawk–dove model of the variations of animal threat, and looks at vocal threats and animal eavesdropping.

Keywords:   animal eavesdropping, animal threat, counterthreats, deception, mimicry, plant threat, predators, threats, vocal threats, warning coloration

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