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Anti-Predator Responses To Conspecific and Heterospecific Skin Extracts By Threespine Sticklebacks: Alarm Pheromones Revisited

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Under laboratory conditions, we investigated the presence of chemical alarm signals in the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We exposed individual threespine sticklebacks to skin extract of conspecifics originating from either the same or a different population, fourspine sticklebacks (Apeltes quadracus; a member of the same prey guild as the threespine stickleback) or swordtails (Xiphophorus helleri), a species not known to possess alarm pheromones and which is phylogenetically distant and allopatric from the threespine stickleback. Threespine sticklebacks exhibited significant increases in anti-predator behaviour patterns when presented with skin extract from both populations of conspecifics and from fourspine sticklebacks, but not to swordtail skin extract. These results suggest, contrary to previous reports, that threespine sticklebacks possess chemical alarm signals, which appear to be similar to those of Ostariophysan fishes.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Mount Allison University, 63B York Street, Sackville, New Brunswick, E4L 1G7, Canada

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