Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats

McCormick, Mark I., Ferrari, Maud C.O., Fakan, Eric P., Barry, Randall P., and Chivers, Douglas P. (2019) Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats. Animal Behaviour, 152. pp. 19-28.

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The change in coral reefs from live coral to algal-dominated seascapes prevents some fish species from using chemical alarm cues to gain information about their risk of predation. Field experiments showed that Ambon damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis, were able to learn the identity of individual novel predators from a cocktail of odours from three predators derived from digestive products. Learning only occurred when the predators had been fed conspecifics of the prey species in the presence of water that had passed over live hard coral. This allows novel predators to be identified long after the immediate capture and ingestion event. Fish that had the same learning opportunity in degraded water took more risk and died faster on habitat patches in the field. Ambon damselfish respond to chemical alarm cues from closely related Pomacentrus nagasakiensis, in both live and degraded water, yet experiments suggested they cannot use the congeneric diet odours to label predators. However, we did find a modest survival benefit under natural conditions, suggesting some limited learning occurred. Findings suggest that as coral habitats degrade, fishes that are affected by the changing chemistry will have a greatly reduced range of mechanisms for obtaining and updating threat information, altering the resilience of communities.

Item ID: 60031
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8282
Keywords: behavioural ecology, coral reef fish, diet cues, environmental chemistry, habitat degradation, predator-prey, risk assessment
Copyright Information: (C) 2019 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Ausralian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC E1140100117, ARC DP 170103372
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2019 07:58
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 20%
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