, Volume 98, Issue 3–4, pp 344–353

Piscivore efficiency and refuging prey: the importance of predator search mode

  • Peter Eklöv
  • Sebastian Diehl
Original Paper


In predator-prey interactions, the efficiency of the predator is dependent on characteristics of both the predator and the prey, as well as the structure of the environment. In a field enclosure experiment, we tested the effects of a prey refuge on predator search mode, predator efficiency and prey behaviour. Replicated enclosures containing young of the year (0+) and 1-year-old (1+) perch were stocked with 3 differentially sized individuals of either of 2 piscivorous species, perch (Perca fluviatilis), pike (Esox lucius) or no piscivorous predators. Each enclosure contained an open predator area with three small vegetation patches, and a vegetated absolute refuge for the prey. We quantified the behaviour of the predators and the prey simultaneously, and at the end of the experiment the growth of the predators and the mortality and habitat use of the prey were estimated. The activity mode of both predator species was stationary. Perch stayed in pairs in the vegetation patches whereas pike remained solitary and occupied the corners of the enclosure. The largest pike individuals stayed closest to the prey refuge whereas the smallest individuals stayed farthest away from the prey refuge, indicating size-dependent interference among pike. Both size classes of prey showed stronger behavioural responses to pike than to perch with respect to refuge use, distance from refuge and distance to the nearest predator. Prey mortality was higher in the presence of pike than in the presence of perch. Predators decreased in body mass in all treatments, and perch showed a relatively stronger decrease in body mass than pike during the experiment. Growth differences of perch and pike, and mortality differences of prey caused by predation, can be explained by predator morphology, predator attack efficiency and social versus interference behaviour of the predators. These considerations suggest that pike are more efficient piscivores around prey refuges such as the littoral zones of lakes, whereas perch have previously been observed to be more efficient in open areas, such as in the pelagic zones of lakes.

Key words

Piscivore-prev interactions Prey refuge Predator search mode Size-specific prey vulnerability 


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Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Eklöv
    • 1
  • Sebastian Diehl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal EcologyUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden

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