Damsel in distress: captured damselfish prey emit chemical cues that attract secondary predators and improve escape chances

Lönnstedt, Oona M., and McCormick, Mark I. (2015) Damsel in distress: captured damselfish prey emit chemical cues that attract secondary predators and improve escape chances. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 282 (1818). p. 52038.

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In aquatic environments, many prey animals possess damage-released chemical alarm cues that elicit antipredator behaviours in responsive con-and heterospecifics. Despite considerable study, the selective advantage of alarm cues remains unclear. In an attempt to investigate one of the more promising hypotheses concerning the evolution of alarm cues, we examined whether the cue functions in a fashion analogous to the distress vocalizations emitted by many terrestrial animals. Our results suggest that chemical alarm cues in damselfish (Pomacentridae) may have evolved to benefit the cue sender by attracting secondary predators who disrupt the predation event, allowing the prey a greater chance to escape. The coral reef piscivore, the dusky dottyback (Pseudochromis fuscus), chemically eavesdrops on predation events and uses chemical alarm cues from fish prey (lemon damselfish; Pomacentrus moluccensis) in an attempt to find and steal prey from primary predators. Field studies showed that Ps. fuscus aggregate at sites where prey alarm cue has been experimentally released. Furthermore, secondary predators attempted to steal captured prey of primary predators in laboratory trials and enhanced prey escape chances by 35-40%. These results are the first, to the best of our knowledge, to demonstrate a mechanism by which marine fish may benefit from the production and release of alarm cues, and highlight the complex and important role that semiochemicals play in marine predator-prey interactions.

Item ID: 41978
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: alarm calls, kleptoparasitism, chemical alarm cue, foraging behaviour, prey stealing, predator-prey interactions
Funders: Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship, ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies
Research Data: http://dx.doi.org/10.4225/28/5a8281700c246
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 18:39
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
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