Coral reef fish predator maintains olfactory acuity in degraded coral habitats

Natt, Michael, Lonnstedt, Oona M., and McCormick, Mark I. (2017) Coral reef fish predator maintains olfactory acuity in degraded coral habitats. PLoS One, 12 (6). e0179300.

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Coral reefs around the world are rapidly degrading due to a range of environmental stress ors. Habitat degradation modifies the sensory landscape within which predator-prey interactions occur, with implications for olfactory-mediated behaviours. Predator na ve settlement stage damselfish rely on conspecific damage-released odours (i.e., alarm odours) to inform risk assessments. Yet, species such as the Ambon damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis, become unable to respond appropriately to these cues when living in dead-degraded coral habitats, leading to increased mortality through loss of vigilance. Reef fish predators also rely on odours from damaged prey to locate, assess prey quality and engage in prey-stealing, but it is unknown whether their responses are also modified by the change to dead degraded coral habitats. Implications for prey clearly depend on how their predatory counterparts are affected, therefore the present study tested whether olfactory-mediated foraging responses in the dusky dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus, a common predator of P. amboinensis, were similarly affected by coral degradation. A y-maze was used to measure the ability of Ps. fuscus to detect and move towards odours, against different background water sources. Ps. fuscus were exposed to damage-released odours from juvenile P. amboinensis, or a control cue of seawater, against a background of seawater treated with either healthy or dead-degraded hard coral. Predators exhibited an increased time allocation to the chambers of y-mazes injected with damage-released odours, with comparable levels of response in both healthy and dead-degraded coral treated waters. In control treatments, where damage-released odours were replaced with a control seawater cue, fish showed no increased preference for either chamber of the y-maze. Our results suggest that olfactory-mediated foraging behaviours may persist in Ps. fuscus within dead-degraded coral habitats. Ps. fuscus may consequently gain a sensory advantage over P. amboinensis, potentially altering the outcome of predator-prey interactions.

Item ID: 50722
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CE), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE EI140100117, ARC DP1701033720
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 11:20
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 20%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310911 Animal structure and function @ 80%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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