Body size and reserve protection affect flight initiation distance in parrotfishes
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- Gotanda, K.M., Turgeon, K. & Kramer, D.L. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2009) 63: 1563. doi:10.1007/s00265-009-0750-5
Flight initiation distance (FID), the distance at which an organism begins to flee an approaching threat, is an important component of antipredator behavior and a potential indicator of an animal’s perception of threat. In a field study on parrotfishes, we tested the predictions that FID in response to a diver will increase with body size, a correlate of reproductive value, and with experience of threat from humans. We studied a broad size range in four species on fringing reefs inside and outside the Barbados Marine Reserve. We used the Akaike's Information Criterion modified for small sample sizes (AICc) and model averaging to select and assess alternative models. Body size, reserve protection, and distance to a refuge, but not species, had strong support in explaining FID. FID increased with body size and generally remained two to ten times fish total length. FID was greater outside the reserve, especially in larger fish. Although we were not able to completely rule out other effects of size or reserve, this study supports predictions of an increase in FID with reproductive value and threat from humans.