Perch, Perca fluviatilis show a directional preference for, but do not increase attacks toward, prey in response to water-borne cortisol

Lindsay J Henderson, Mary R Ryan, Hannah M Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In freshwater environments, chemosensory cues play an important role in predator-prey interactions. Prey use a variety of chemosensory cues to detect and avoid predators. However, whether predators use the chemical cues released by disturbed or stressed prey has received less attention. Here we tested the hypothesis that the disturbance cue cortisol, in conjunction with visual cues of prey, elevates predatory behavior. We presented predators (perch, Perca fluviatilis) with three chemosensory choice tests and recorded their location, orientation, and aggressive behavior. We compared the responses of predators when provided with (i) visual cues of prey only (two adjacent tanks containing sticklebacks); (ii) visual and natural chemical cues of prey vs. visual cues only; and (iii) visual cues of prey with cortisol vs. visual cues only. Perch spent a significantly higher proportion of time in proximity to prey, and orientated toward prey more, when presented with a cortisol stimulus plus visual cues, relative to presentations of visual and natural chemical cues of prey, or visual cues of prey only. There was a trend that perch directed a higher proportion of predatory behaviors (number of lunges) toward sticklebacks when presented with a cortisol stimulus plus visual cues, relative to the other chemosensory conditions. But they did not show a significant increase in total predatory behavior in response to cortisol. Therefore, it is not clear whether water-borne cortisol, in conjunction with visual cues of prey, affects predatory behavior. Our results provide evidence that cortisol could be a source of public information about prey state and/or disturbance, but further work is required to confirm this.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3883
JournalPeerJ
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Sensory ecology
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Perca fluviatilis
  • Hormone
  • Predation

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