Top predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology

Palacios, Maria M., Killen, Shaun S., Nadler, Lauren E., White, James R., and McCormick, Mark I. (2016) Top predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85 (4). pp. 1078-1086.

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1. Predation theory and empirical evidence suggest that top predators benefit the survival of resource prey through the suppression of mesopredators. However, whether such behavioural suppression can also affect the physiology of resource prey has yet to be examined.

2. Using a three-tier reef fish food web and intermittent-flow respirometry, our study examined changes in the metabolic rate of resource prey exposed to combinations of mesopredator and top predator cues.

3. Under experimental conditions, the mesopredator (dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus) continuously foraged and attacked resource prey (juveniles of the damselfish Pomacentrus amboinensis) triggering an increase in prey O₂ uptake by 38 ± 129% (mean ± SE). The visual stimulus of a top predator (coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus) restricted the foraging activity of the mesopredator, indirectly allowing resource prey to minimize stress and maintain routine O₂ uptake. Although not as strong as the effect of the top predator, the sight of a large non-predator species (thicklip wrasse, Hemigymnus melapterus) also reduced the impact of the mesopredator on prey metabolic rate.

4. We conclude that lower trophic-level species can benefit physiologically from the presence of top predators through the behavioural suppression that top predators impose on mesopredators. By minimizing the energy spent on mesopredator avoidance and the associated stress response to mesopredator attacks, prey may be able to invest more energy in foraging and growth, highlighting the importance of the indirect, non-consumptive effects of top predators in marine food webs.

Item ID: 45493
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2656
Keywords: coral reef fish, metabolic rate, non-consumptive effects, predator-prey interactions, respirometry, trait-mediated indirect effects
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© 2016 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

A version of this publication was included as Chapter 4 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: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CECRS), James Cook University (JCU), Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship (IPDF), Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF), Australian Coral Reef Society (ACRS), National Environmental Research Council (NERC)
Projects and Grants: NERC Advanced Fellowship NE/J019100/1
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Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2016 07:40
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310303 Ecological physiology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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