Localized defecation by pike: a response to labelling by cyprinid alarm pheromone?

Abstract

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) that have never encountered a predatory pike (Esox lucius), are able to detect conspecific alarm pheromone in a pike's diet if the pike has recently consumed minnows. It remains unclear how this minnow alarm pheromone is secreted by pike and if a pike is able to avoid being labelled as a potential predator by localizing these cues away from its foraging range. The first experiment determined that minnow alarm pheromone is present in pike feces when pike are fed minnows. Individual fathead minnows exhibited a fright response to a stimulus of pike feces if the pike had been fed minnows, but not if the pike had been fed swordtails, which lack alarm pheromone. Individual minnows also exhibited a fright reaction to alarm pheromone in the water (which contained no feces) housing pike which had been fed minnows, suggesting that alarm pheromone is also released in urine, mucous secretions and/or via respiration. The second experiment determined that test pike spent a significantly greater proportion of time in the “home area” of the test tanks (i.e. where they were fed) but the majority of feces were deposited in the opposite end of the test tank. By localizing their defecation away from the home or foraging area, pike may be able to counter the effects of being labelled as a predator by the alarm pheromone of the prey species.

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Communicated by G. M. Klump

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Brown, G.E., Chivers, D.P. & Smith, R.J.F. Localized defecation by pike: a response to labelling by cyprinid alarm pheromone?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 36, 105–110 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00170715

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Key words

  • Esox lucius
  • Pimephales promelas Schreckstoff
  • Predator labelling
  • Localized defecation