, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 242-247

Predator identity and consumer behavior: differential effects of fish and crayfish on the habitat use of a freshwater snail

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Predators can alter the outcome of ecological interactions among other members of the food web through their effects on prey behavior. While it is well known that animals often alter their behavior with the imposition of predation risk, we know less about how other features of predators may affect prey behavior. For example, relatively few studies have addressed the effects of predator identity on prey behavior, but such knowledge is crucial to understanding food web interactions. This study contrasts the behavioral responses of the freshwater snail Physellagyrina to fish and crayfish predators. Snails were placed in experimental mesocosms containing caged fish and crayfish, so the only communication between experimental snails and their predators was via non-visual cues. The caged fish and crayfish were fed an equal number of snails, thereby simulating equal prey mortality rates. In the presence of fish, the experimental snails moved under cover, which confers safety from fish predators. However, in the presence of crayfish, snails avoided benthic cover and moved to the water surface. Thus, two species of predators, exerting the same level of mortality on prey, induced very different behavioral responses. We predict that these contrasting behavioral responses to predation risk have important consequences for the interactions between snails and their periphyton resources.

Received: 1 June 1998 / Accepted: 12 October 1998