University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Antipredator behaviour of Baltic planktivores
Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
Predation is an important source of mortality for most aquatic animals. Thus, the ability to avoid being eaten brings substantial fitness benefits to individuals. Predator detection abilities and antipredator behaviour were examined in various planktivores, i.e. the littoral mysids Neomysis integer and Praunus flexuosus, three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus larvae, pelagic mysids Mysis mixta and M. relicta, and the predatory cladoceran Cercopagis pengoi, with cues from their respective predators European perch Perca fluviatilis and Baltic herring Clupea harengus membras. The use of different aquatic macrophytes as predation refuges by the littoral planktivores was also examined.
All pelagic planktivores and stickleback larvae were able to detect the presence of their predator by chemical cues alone. The littoral mysids N. integer and P. flexuosus responded only when chemical and visual predator cues were combined. The responses of stickleback larvae were stronger to the combined cues than the chemical cue alone.
A common antipredator behaviour in all of the planktivores studied was decreased ingestion rate in response to predator cues. N. integer and stickleback larvae also decreased their swimming activity. Pelagic mysids and C. pengoi altered their prey selectivity patterns in response to predator cues.
The effects of predator cues on the swarming behaviour of N. integer were examined. Swarming brings clear antipredator advantages to N. integer, since when they feed in a swarm, they do not significantly decrease their feeding rate. However, the swarming behaviour of N. integer was not affected by predation risk, but was instead a fixed strategy. Despite the presence or absence of predator cues, N. integer individuals attempted to associate with a swarm and preferred larger to smaller swarms.
In studies with aquatic macrophytes, stickleback larvae and P. flexuosus utilized vegetation as a predation refuge, spending more time within vegetation when under predation threat. The two macroalgal species studied, bladderwrack Fucus vesiculosus and stonewort Chara tomentosa, were preferred by P. flexuosus, whereas Eurasian watermilfoil Myriophyllum spicatum was strongly avoided by N. integer and stickleback larvae. In fact, when in dense patches in aquaria, M. spicatum caused acute and high mortality (> 70%) in littoral mysids, but not in sticklebacks, whereas C. tomentosa and northern watermilfoil M. sibiricum did not. In contrast, only 2-4% mortality in N. integer was observed with intact and broken stems of M. spicatum in field experiments. The distribution of littoral mysids in different vegetations, however, suggests that N. integer avoids areas vegetated by M. spicatum.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 21.07.2006