Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 693–699

Predator-induced plasticity in guppy (Poecilia reticulata) life history traits

Original Paper


A number of invertebrates show predator-induced plasticity in life-history and morphological traits that are considered adaptive. Evidence is accumulating that vertebrates may also adjust their life-history traits in response to predators; however, some of the patterns of plasticity, which appear to be an adaptive response specifically to the risk of size-selective predation, may instead result from reduced foraging in response to predator presence. Here, we describe a study of predator-induced plasticity in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). We have predicted that the plastic response to cues from a small, gape-limited, natural predator of guppies, the killlifish (Rivulus hartii), would be the opposite of that caused by reduced food intake. We have found that male guppies increased their size at maturity, both length and mass, in response to the non-lethal presence of this predator. This pattern of plasticity is the opposite of that observed in response to reduced food intake, where male guppies reduce size at maturity. The increase in size at maturity that we observed would likely reduce predation on adult male guppies by this native predator because it is gape-limited and can only eat juvenile and small adult guppies. This size advantage would be important especially because male guppies grow very little after maturity. Therefore, the pattern of plasticity that we observed is likely adaptive. In contrast, female guppies showed no significant response in size at first parturition to the experimental manipulation; however, we did find evidence suggesting that females may produce more, smaller offspring in response to cues from this predator.


Size at maturity Age at maturity Offspring size Offspring number Non-lethal effect 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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