Naiveté in prey arises from novel ecological mismatches in cue recognition systems and antipredator responses following the arrival of alien predators. The multi‐level naiveté framework suggests that animals can progress through levels of naiveté towards predator awareness. Alternatively, native prey may be pre‐adapted to recognize novel predators via common constituents in predator odors or familiar predator archetypes. We tested predictions of these competing hypotheses on the mechanisms driving behavioral responses of native species to alien predators by measuring responses of native free‐living northern brown bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus) to alien red fox (Vulpes vulpes) odor. We compared multiple bandicoot populations either sympatric or allopatric with foxes. Bandicoots sympatric with foxes showed recognition and appropriate anti‐predator behavior towards fox odor via avoidance. On the few occasions bandicoots did visit, their vigilance significantly increased, and their foraging decreased. In contrast, bandicoots allopatric with foxes showed no recognition of this predator cue. Our results suggest that vulnerable Australian mammals were likely naïve to foxes when they first arrived, which explains why so many native mammals declined soon after fox arrival. Our results also suggest such naiveté can be overcome within a relatively short time‐frame, driven by experience with predators, thus supporting the multi‐level naiveté framework.
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Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering