Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 99, Issue 10, pp 729–739 | Cite as

Thermal environment and nutritional condition affect the efficacy of chemical alarm cues produced by prey fish

  • Govinda D. H. LienartEmail author
  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
  • Mark I. McCormick


A wide variety of prey animals possess damage-released chemical alarm cues that evoke antipredator responses in both conspecifics and some heterospecifics. Several studies have indicated that food availability may influence body condition and in doing so, affect the production of alarm cues. We examined whether food availability (high and low) and temperature (27, 30 and 32 °C) interacted to affect the production of chemical alarm cues by juveniles of a marine tropical prey fish, Pomacentrus moluccensis. Results indicate that poorly-fed fish had depleted energy reserves with rising temperatures compared to well-fed fish. Fish with a poor feeding history also showed depressed growth rate across all temperature treatments. The alarm cues produced by experimental fish triggered stronger antipredator responses as temperature increased up to 30 °C, regardless of the feeding history or body condition of the donor. However, at 32 °C, alarm cues from poorly-fed fish did not elicit as effectively an antipredator response in conspecifics compared to those produced by well-fed fish. The results highlight that warming oceans, in isolation but also in conjunction with changes in food supply, may have a drastic impact on chemically-mediated predator-prey interactions.


Body condition Chemical alarm cue Coral reef fish Food availability Temperature 



We thank Anne Hoggett and Lyle Vail of the Lizard Island Research Station for their logistic support and Miwa Takahashi and Lucy Holmes for field assistance. Funding was provided by a James Cook University grant, the ARC and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. This study was conduction in in accordance with James Cook University Animal Ethics; permit no. A2005 and A2080.

Compliance with ethical standards

Statement of the welfare of the animals

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Govinda D. H. Lienart
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
    • 2
  • Mark I. McCormick
    • 1
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and College of Marine and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical SciencesWCVM, University of` SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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