Positive indirect effects of top-predators on the behaviour and survival of juvenile fishes

Palacios, Maria del Mar, and McCormick, Mark I. (2021) Positive indirect effects of top-predators on the behaviour and survival of juvenile fishes. Oikos, 130 (2). pp. 219-230.

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Top-predators can suppress mesopredator behaviour through risk effects. However, there is limited understanding of whether such behavioural suppression can dampen the lethal and sub-lethal effects of mesopredators on bottom level prey. Here, we document a field experiment that examines whether the presence of top-predator cues (visual and chemical stimuli from a coral trout) can cascade to indirectly influence the behaviour and survival of juvenile fish prey of different species (Pomacentrus amboinensis and P. chrysurus) and size (small = 1.18 cm SL versus large = 1.32 cm SL). Results showed that habitat patches exposed to top-predator cues received fewer visits and foraging attacks from mesopredators, leading to higher space use (~ 46%), feeding rate (~ 95%) and survival (~ 67%) from juvenile fish prey. Survival was always higher for individuals of P. amboinensis and of large-size, independent of the presence or absence of top-predator cues. Our data indicate that predation risk from the top-predator indirectly favoured the persistence and behaviour of juvenile fishes by promoting risk-averse behavioural responses in mesopredators. This study underscores the behavioural mechanisms by which risk effects can cascade through the food web and highlights the consequences that harvesting top-predators may have on the replenishment of bottom prey populations.

Item ID: 66920
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1600-0706
Keywords: behavioural trophic cascade, coral reef fish, lethal effects, piscivores, predator selectivity, sub-lethal effects
Copyright Information: © 2020 Nordic Society Oikos. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2022 02:48
Downloads: Total: 1
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