Deer ran away from tiger or cheetah, but not from giraffe or zebra. where did deer learn this?

How animals know which is carnivorous and herbivorous?


They probably don't know and probably don't need to. They tend to run away from potential danger and predators in the same evolution environment because those who don't run away will have fewer offsprings that exhibit similar behaviors.

If an animal suddenly sees a predator that his ancestor has never seen before, then it may not run away from it, to its own detriment. Dodo Bird thought humans were harmless.

  • $\begingroup$ It is definitely not that easy and the answer will depend on the species of interest. There is probably an important part of culture. There is also probably various reaction depending on the smell or the color of the animal that is perceived that might be adaptive. One cannot make a general case saying "they just run away from anything". $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 6 '15 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, deer just do what deer do when they see a predator. To imply that they know or are conscious of their actions carries a huge burden of proof. In fact they are almost certainly acting unconsciously in order for the reaction to be fast enough. It sounds silly but that's what evolution and natural selection pressures do. There probably were many kinds of deer that didn't run from predators, and they died at various times in history, and we don't call then deer now. $\endgroup$ – ebrohman May 6 '15 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ @ebrohman: Yet this "run away" reflex is not what you observe in nature. If you come upon a deer while out hiking, as I often do, it will often stand and look at you, apparently evaluating whether or not you're a threat. If you live within a game refuge, as friends of mine do, they don't even bother to run from humans, as they usually do where hunting is allowed. So it seems that, at least with larger mammals, there is a good degree of learning in threat recognition. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 7 '15 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf humans aren't the deer's natural predator so I don't think it's surprising that some deer do not flee when they see a human. Humans may hunt deer now but that's more recent in terms of evolutionary time scales. The predators that deer evolved alongside of run on all fours, or fly (large birds of prey). $\endgroup$ – ebrohman May 7 '15 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ In zoology, the word "Naive" means an animal which is suddenly put into a terrain/ecosphere which its evolution has not prepared it for, or when a new animal arrives which can destroy the terrain/ecosphere. For example, if an island has no predators, then the animals on it would have no sense of fear and thus not be prepared if a predator suddenly comes along. That is how the dodo became extinct - because it was not scared of humans. Source $\endgroup$ – MyDaftQuestions Sep 3 '15 at 9:12

Higher predators usually have the eyes in front of their head to see stereoscopically and judge distance visually. Prey usually has eyes on the side of the head to visually analyze the most possible area, giving up stereoscopic distance information.

This puts human in the predator, carnivorous category. That being said, I am not sure that it is used by animals to judge unknown species.

  • $\begingroup$ Hello! Might be better suited as a comment. As you said ("I am not sure that it is used by animals to judge unknown species"), you don't actually answer the question. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b May 6 '15 at 0:05

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