Suspended sediment alters predator–prey interactions between two coral reef fishes
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Sediment derived from agriculture and development increases water turbidity and threatens the health of inshore coral reefs. In this study, we examined whether suspended sediment could change predation patterns through a reduction in visual cues. We measured survivorship of newly settled Chromis atripectoralis exposed to Pseudochromis fuscus, a common predator of juvenile damselfishes, in aquaria with one of four turbidity levels. Increased turbidity led to a nonlinear response in predation patterns. Predator-induced mortality was ~50 % in the control and low turbidity level, but exhibited a substantial increase in the medium level. In the highest turbidity level, predation rates declined to the level seen in the control. These results suggest an imbalance in how the predator and prey cope with turbidity. A turbidity-induced change to the outcome of predator–prey interactions represents a major change to the fundamental processes that regulate fish assemblages.
KeywordsTurbidity Sediment thresholds Damselfish Predation
This study was completed in accordance with the JCU animal ethics board under permit number A1619. This study was funded by an Australian Coral Reef Society grant to ASW and Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence funding to GPJ. We thank Geoff Endo for field assistance and the staff at Lizard Island Research Station (Australian Museum) for logistical support.
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