Sensory cues of a top-predator indirectly control a reef fish mesopredator

del Mar Palacios , Maria, Warren, Donald T., and McCormick, Mark I. (2016) Sensory cues of a top-predator indirectly control a reef fish mesopredator. Oikos, 125 (2). pp. 201-209.

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Behavioural trophic cascades highlight the importance of indirect/risk effects in the maintenance of healthy trophic-level links in complex ecosystems. However, there is limited understanding on how the loss of indirect top–down control can cascade through the food-web to modify lower level predator–prey interactions. Using a reef fish food-web, our study examines behavioural interactions among predators to assess how fear elicited by top-predator cues (visual and chemical stimuli) can alter mesopredator behaviour and modify their interaction with resource prey. Under experimental conditions, the presence of any cue (visual, chemical, or both) from the top-predator (coral trout Plectropomus leopardus) strongly restricted the distance swum, area explored and foraging activity of the mesopredator (dottyback Pseudochromis fuscus), while indirectly triggering a behavioural release of the resource prey (recruits of the damselfish Pomacentrus chrysurus). Interestingly, the presence of a large non-predator species (thicklip wrasse Hemigymnus melapterus) also mediated the impact of the mesopredator on prey, as it provoked mesopredators to engage in an 'inspection' behaviour, while significantly reducing their feeding activity. Our study describes for the first time a three-level behavioural cascade of coral reef fish and stresses the importance of indirect interactions in marine food-webs.

Item ID: 43038
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1600-0706
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 2 of the following PhD thesis: Palacios Otero, Maria del Mar (2017) Controlling mesopredators: importance of behavioural interactions in trophic cascades. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: JCU College of Marine and Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2016 23:41
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 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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