Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 183-192

First online:

Response of shoaling fish to the threat of aerial predation

  • Matthew K. LitvakAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Toronto

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Many species of shoaling fish are preyed upon by aerial predators. However, to date there has been no analysis of the evasive response of a group of shoaling fish to an aerial threat or attack. The response of a shoal of fish encompasses a suite of behaviors starting with a startle response. Shoals of golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas, responded to the threat of aerial predation from a kingfisher model with a startle response, an increase in shoal depth, an increase in polarity, swimming in the opposite direction under the model predator, shoal compression along the depth axis, and shoal expansion on the plane perpendicular to the depth axis. It was hypothesized that shoal compression along the depth axis serves to increase predator confusion by placing more fish in the predator's visual field. This compression was termed the ‘plane of confusion’.


Predator evasion Aerial threat Confusion effect Avoidance behaviour Startle response Notemigonus crysoleucas