Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 6, pp 989–998 | Cite as

Balancing the response to predation—the effects of shoal size, predation risk and habituation on behaviour of juvenile perch

  • Silvan U. Goldenberg
  • Jost Borcherding
  • Martina Heynen
Original Paper


Group size, predation risk and habituation are key drivers of behaviour and evolution in gregarious prey animals. However, the extent to which they interact in shaping behaviour is only partially understood. We analyzed their combined effects on boldness and vigilance behaviour in juvenile perch (Perca fluviatilis) by observing individuals in groups of one, two, three and five faced with four different levels of predation risk in a repeated measures design. The perch showed an asymptotic increase in boldness with increasing group size and the highest per capita vigilance in groups of two. With increasing predation risk, individuals reduced boldness and intensified vigilance. The interaction between group size and predation risk influenced vigilance but not boldness. In this context, individuals in groups of two elevated their vigilance compared to individuals in larger groups only when at higher risk of predation. Further, as only group size, they significantly reduced vigilance at the highest level of risk. With increasing habituation, solitary individuals became considerably bolder. Also, predation risk affected boldness only in the more habituated situation. Hence, repeated measures may be essential to correctly interpret certain relationships in behaviour. Our results suggest that perch may adjust boldness behaviour to group size and predation risk independently. This is rather unexpected since in theory, natural selection would strongly favour an interactive adjustment. Finally, vigilance might be particularly effective in groups of two due to the intense monitoring and detailed response to changing levels of risk.


Perca fluviatilis Group living Boldness Vigilance Predator inspection Novelty effect 



We thank U. König, S. Gertzen, A. Hertel, C. Schiavo and J. Harrandt for their assistance during the fieldwork and M. Volpers who programmed the computer software to record behaviour. We also thank C. Magnhagen, G. Hellström and J. Oosten for their valuable comments on the study design. Further, we thank M. Teichert, P. Albers, the associate editor D. Croft and five anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. The study was financially supported by the German Research Foundation to JB (BO 1507/6-3).

Ethical Standards

After the experimental period, adult perch were released at their capture site. The tested juvenile perch were used in a consecutive study (MH, SUG and JB, unpublished data) and afterwards killed using an overdose of anaesthetic (MS222) for later morphological analyses. The experiments complied with the current laws of Germany and were approved by the ethic commission of the University of Cologne.

Supplementary material

265_2014_1711_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (381 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 380 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvan U. Goldenberg
    • 1
  • Jost Borcherding
    • 1
  • Martina Heynen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General Ecology and Limnology, Ecological Field Station GrietherbuschZoological Institute of the University of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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