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DO JUVENILE YELLOW PERCH USE DIET CUES TO ASSESS THE LEVEL OF THREAT POSED BY INTRASPECIFIC PREDATORS?

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The mechanisms that drive the evolution of intraspecifc predation (cannibalism) are unclear. Many authors speculate that predators can make substantial gains in nutrition and reproductive output by consuming conspecifics. However, by consuming conspecifics, predators may risk decreasing their inclusive fitness by consuming kin or increasing the chances of pathogen transmission. In fishes intraspecific predation is typically observed when resource levels are low. During these periods it is important for prey fishes to be able to accurately assess their level of predation risk from cannibalistic conspecifics. Prey animals may be able to do this by using chemical cues available in the predator's diet. The last meal consumed by the predator may give important information for prey animals to assess predation risk. We exposed juvenile yellow perch, Perca flavescens, to chemical cues of adult perch fed a diet of either juvenile perch, spot tail shiners, Notropis hudsonius, swordtails, Xiphophorus helleri, or a control of distilled water. Spot tail shiners and juvenile perch commonly form mixed species shoals and are vulnerable to the same suite of predators. Swordtails do not co-occur with yellow perch or spot tail shiners. We found that juvenile perch increased shelter use significantly more when exposed to chemical cues of adult perch fed juvenile perch or spot tails, compared to adult perch fed swordtails or those exposed to distilled water. This suggests that the level of chemosensory assessment used by juvenile perch is quite sophisticated and that the antipredator response can be mediated by specific cues in the predator's diet. This study is the first to demonstrate a response of a fish to chemical cues from intraspecific predators. Future studies should examine the importance of predator diet cues in responses to chemical cues from intraspecific predators.

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/content/journals/10.1163/15685390152822201
2001-10-01
2015-01-30

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