, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 629-641
Date: 20 Sep 2007

Short-term predator avoidance behavior by invasive and native amphipods in the Great Lakes

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Abstract

Understanding predator avoidance behavior by prey remains an important topic in community and invasion ecology. Recently, the Ponto-Caspian amphipod Echinogammarus ischnus (Stebbing 1898) was accidentally introduced into the Great Lakes. Since its introduction, it has displaced the native amphipod, Gammarus fasciatus (Say 1818), from several locations in the lower lakes. To assess whether behavioral differences in predator avoidance might be a causal mechanism increasing the success of the invasive amphipods, two experiments were conducted examining (1) native and invasive amphipod behavioral responses to five fish species with different foraging behaviors, and (2) amphipod responses to different densities of round gobies, a hyper-abundant benthic invertivore. Echinogammarus reduced its distance moved in the presence of all fish species tested, whereas Gammarus reduced its distance moved only after exposure to round gobies, black crappies, and rainbow darters. Both amphipod species increased the time spent motionless following exposure to round gobies, but not after encountering the scent of most of the remaining fish predators. The exception was that Echinogammarus also responded to black crappie scent whereas Gammarus did not. Although both amphipod species exhibited behavioral responses to many of the fish predators, the magnitude of their responses differed only after exposure to the brown bullhead. In the bullhead trials, Echinogammarus reduced its distance traveled significantly more than Gammarus. Both amphipod species increased their avoidance response to increasing goby density, however, the pattern of avoidance behavior was different. Invasive E. ischnus exhibited a consistently strong avoidance response to round gobies over the test duration. Native G. fasciatus initially avoided goby scent, but then either ceased their avoidance response or showed a hyper-avoidance response, depending on goby density. These results suggested (1) both species of amphipods were able to differentiate and react to a variety of fish predators, (2) invasive Echinogammarus amphipods avoided a larger range of fish predators than the native Gammarus, (3) increased avoidance behavior was associated with an increased density of fish, and (4) the avoidance response patterns of invasive Echinogammarus when faced with round goby predators might lead to increased predation on native Gammarus in habitats where they co-occur.