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Enhanced fast-start performance and anti-predator behaviour in a coral reef fish in response to suspended sediment exposure


Declining water quality, in particular elevated suspended sediments, poses a significant threat to coastal coral reefs. We exposed juvenile anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) to two suspended sediment concentrations (0 or 180 mg L−1) for 7 d and examined their predator escape performance and anti-predator behaviour in both clear water and suspended sediments (0 and 180 mg L−1, i.e. acute exposure). After 7-d exposure to suspended sediments, fish responded faster to a mechanical stimulus and exhibited enhanced fast starts compared to individuals reared in clear water, regardless of acute exposure. Fish were also less active and avoided open areas when exposed to elevated suspended sediments in the test arena when compared to clear water, irrespective of prior 7-d exposure. While these changes are likely strategies to compensate for an increased perceived predation risk in suspended sediments, they may also be associated with non-consumptive costs for juveniles living on turbid reefs.

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We thank the team at MARFU, Ross Barrett and Sue Reilly for their technical support.

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Correspondence to Sybille Hess.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This research has been conducted according to the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes and has been approved by the Animal Ethics Committee at James Cook University (animal ethics approval number A2218).

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Topic Editor Morgan S. Pratchett

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Hess, S., Allan, B.J.M., Hoey, A.S. et al. Enhanced fast-start performance and anti-predator behaviour in a coral reef fish in response to suspended sediment exposure. Coral Reefs 38, 103–108 (2019).

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  • Suspended solids
  • Sub-lethal effects
  • Predator–prey interactions
  • Turbidity
  • Fish health