Marine Biology

, 166:65 | Cite as

Structural complexity but not territory sizes influences flight initiation distance in a damselfish

  • André L. S. Quadros
  • Francisco Barros
  • Daniel T. Blumstein
  • Verena H. Meira
  • José Anchieta C. C. NunesEmail author
Original paper


The fear of predators can lead to behavioral changes in their prey, but animals must trade off defensive behavior against other compelling needs. For territorial species, responding to predators may be especially costly, because defense and escape are mutually incompatible. A growing literature documents risk assessment in fish, but a few studies have focused on extremely territorial fish, and nothing is known about how territory size, territorial interactions, habitat structural complexity, and life stage may modify risk assessment. We studied this in a damselfish (Stegastes fuscus) on coral reefs and measured risk assessment using flight initiation distance (FID). We found that only structural complexity explained variation in FID; fish in more complex habitats tolerated closer approach. Our study suggests that individuals in relatively more structurally complex territories are bolder than those that occur in less complex territories. Documenting the relative importance of these variables is important, because antipredator behavior influences not only the predator–prey relationship, but can also generate cascading effects, and influence the structure of the community and potentially entire ecosystems.



We thank Laboratório de Ecologia Bentônica (LEB-UFBA) team for constant support. F. B. was supported by CNPq fellowships (303897/2011-2; 239978/2012-9) and J.A.C.C.N by CNPq fellowships (150344/2017-1). D.T.B. is currently supported by the US National Science Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained. This project was approved by Ethics Committee of the Federal University of Bahia (Brasil) of animal use for research and Sistema de Autorização e Informação em Biodiversidade (44060-1).

Data availability

The data sets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratório de Ecologia Bentônica, Centro Interdisciplinar de Energia e Ambiente (CIENAM), Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e BiomonitoramentoUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de Ecologia e Conservação Marinha, Centro de Formação em Ciências AmbientaisUniversidade Federal do Sul da BahiaPorto SeguroBrazil

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