, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 399–409 | Cite as

Alteration of sensory abilities regulates the spatial scale of nonlethal predator effects

  • Delbert L. SmeeEmail author
  • Matthew C. Ferner
  • Marc J. Weissburg
Community Ecology - Original Paper


Many studies have shown that nonlethal predator effects such as trait-mediated interactions (TMIs) can have significant impacts on the structure and function of communities, but the role that environmental conditions play in modulating the scale and magnitude of these effects has not been carefully investigated. TMIs occur when prey exhibit behavioral or physiological responses to predators and may be more prevalent when abiotic conditions increase prey reactions to consumers. The purpose of this study was to determine if turbulence would alter the distance over which prey in aquatic systems respond to chemical cues emitted by predators in nature, thus changing the scales over which nonlethal predator effects occur. Using hard clams and blue crabs as a model predator–prey system, we investigated the effects of turbulence on clam reactive distance to predatory blue crabs in the field. Results suggest that turbulence diminishes clam reactions to predators and that the environmental context must be considered when predicting the extent of indirect predator effects in natural systems.


Blue crab Clam Hydrodynamics Indirect effects Turbulence 



The authors would like to thank Brandon Coleman, Star Loar, Lance Miller, Flora Moir, Sandy Smee, and all others who helped with field work. R. Zimmer, C. Peterson, and two anonymous referees provided comments that improved the manuscript. Funding support for this project came from the NSF IGERT grant to the Georgia Institute of Technology, NSF grants NSF-OCE no. 0424673 to M. Weissburg and NSF-OCE no. 0648433 to D. Smee, the Texas Research Development Fund, and TAMUCC startup funds to D. Smee.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delbert L. Smee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew C. Ferner
    • 2
  • Marc J. Weissburg
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Life SciencesTexas A&M University–Corpus ChristiCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.Bodega Marine LaboratoryUniversity of California–DavisBodega BayUSA
  3. 3.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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