Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 109–117 | Cite as

Feeding and Refuge Use by Small Fish in the Presence of Cyanobacteria Blooms

  • Jonna Engström-ÖstEmail author
  • Miina Karjalainen
  • Markku Viitasalo
Original Paper


We studied the effect of cyanobacteria on foraging and refuge use in small fish. We measured pike larval feeding in the presence of cyanobacteria by counting leftover prey. Our results showed that feeding by pike larvae on zooplankton prey decreased significantly in the presence of non-toxic cyanobacteria. The behaviour can be due to lowered vision caused by turbidity or clogging of the gills. Further, we tested whether the three-spined stickleback use toxic cyanobacteria as a refuge against predators in a choice experiment. The choice experiment was performed in a Y-maze fluviarum, where the fish could select between two different environments. Our results support the refuge use hypothesis because the three-spined stickleback clearly preferred toxic cyanobacteria to the chemical predator signal. To conclude, cyanobacteria decrease feeding rates in fish larvae, but may function as important refuge for e.g. sticklebacks, during predation pressure in pelagic algal blooms.

Key words

Feeding Pike Predator signal Refuge Three-spined stickleback Toxic 


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Two anonymous referees are thanked for valuable comments on the manuscript. We thank H. Strandberg for the pike larvae and M. Lehtiniemi for discussions. R. Olsonen and M. Öst advised on statistical issues. T. Sjölund made the fluviarum. The cyanobacteria strains (HKVV and AV1) originated from the culture collection of Prof. K. Sivonen, Department of Chemistry and Microbiology, University of Helsinki. H. Kankaanpää provided us with cyanobacteria when we had run out. J. Lindeberg was responsible for animal care in 2004. The experiments comply with the current laws of Finland. Animal welfare was respected during all stages of the study. Permissions (no: 347 and 69/04) were granted by the Animal Care Committee at the University of Helsinki. Funding by the Academy of Finland (project nos. 202437 and 202382) and Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation is greatly acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonna Engström-Öst
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miina Karjalainen
    • 1
  • Markku Viitasalo
    • 1
  1. 1.Finnish Institute of Marine ResearchHelsinkiFinland

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