Predator faunas past and present: quantifying the influence of waterborne cues in divergent ecotypes of the isopod Asellus aquaticus
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- Harris, S., Karlsson Green, K. & Pettersson, L.B. Oecologia (2013) 173: 791. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2667-y
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Waterborne chemical cues are an important source of information for many aquatic organisms, in particular when assessing the current risk of predation. The ability to use chemical cues to detect and respond to potential predators before an actual encounter can improve prey chances of survival. We investigated predator recognition and the impact of chemical cues on predator avoidance in the freshwater isopod Asellus aquaticus. This isopod has recently colonised a novel habitat and diverged into two distinct ecotypes, which encounter different predator communities. Using laboratory-based choice experiments, we have quantified behavioural responses to chemical cues from predators typical of the two predator communities (larval dragonflies in the ancestral habitat, perch in the newly colonised habitat) in wild-caught and lab-reared Asellus of the two ecotypes. Individuals with prior experience of predators showed strong predator avoidance to cues from both predator types. Both ecotypes showed similar antipredator responses, but sexes differed in terms of threat-sensitive responses with males avoiding areas containing predator cues to a larger extent than females. Overall, chemical cues from fish elicited stronger predator avoidance than cues from larval dragonflies. Our results indicate that in these isopods, prior exposure to predators is needed to develop antipredator behaviour based on waterborne cues. Furthermore, the results emphasise the need to analyse predator avoidance in relation to waterborne cues in a sex-specific context, because of potential differences between males and females in terms of vulnerability and life history strategies.