Journal of Ethology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 77–84 | Cite as

There must be something in the water: assessing the behavioral responses of rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) to fish and amphibian predator kairomones

  • Erin K. KenisonEmail author
  • Paige Y. Weldy
  • Rod N. Williams


Animals use chemical cues to find food, locate mates, and detect potential predators. Detecting cues in a risky environment can induce behavioral changes to increase survival. Rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) reduce activity, increase refuge use, and make defensive displays after detecting fish predator cues. However, no studies have introduced amphibian cues. We investigated crayfish responses to hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, a dominant predator of crayfish) cues and compared these to responses to largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) cues. Largemouth bass occur sympatrically with hellbenders and are known to induce distinct responses in rusty crayfish. We randomly assigned crayfish to predator cue and conspecific alarm cue combinations and recorded frozen behavior, appendage movement, locomotion, and refuge use. We found crayfish increased their proportion of time spent frozen and reduced their proportion of time spent active in the tank when exposed to either predator cue. Moreover, these responses were magnified when crayfish were exposed to predator cues in combination with conspecific alarm cues. Our experiment demonstrates evidence in support of the crayfish’s ability to detect and appropriately respond to predator cues alone and in combination with conspecific alarm cues. Future work should investigate the effects of these behavioral changes on trophic dynamics in a natural system.


Hellbender salamander Cryptobranchus alleganiensis Predator detection Largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides Conspecific alarm cue 



We thank Brian Tornabene and Veronica Yager for their hard work collecting crayfish for this experiment. All crayfish were collected under the IDNR scientific collection permit 15-111. We also thank Bob Rode for access to largemouth bass and the use of Purdue University’s Aquaculture Research Laboratory. We are grateful for the Williams laboratory group for their helpful comments and revisions to this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards


This project was funded through Purdue University’s College of Agriculture Undergraduate Research Grant, received by Paige Weldy.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted; PACUC #1406001094314.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin K. Kenison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paige Y. Weldy
    • 1
  • Rod N. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.Forestry and Natural Resources DepartmentPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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