Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 561–574 | Cite as

Predator-induced changes in morphology of a prey fish: the effects of food level and temporal frequency of predation risk

  • Douglas P. Chivers
  • Xiaoxia Zhao
  • Grant E. Brown
  • Tracy A. Marchant
  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
Original Paper


In a series of experiments, we investigated the effects of food availability and risk frequency on the dynamics of predator-induced changes in growth and morphology of prey fish using goldfish (Carassius auratus) as our test species. In experiment 1, we fed goldfish high or low food rations and exposed them to either alarm cues from conspecifics, cues from swordtails or a water control. After 60 days, goldfish in the alarm cue treatment significantly increased their body depth and body weight but had smaller body length than goldfish exposed to swordtails cues or water, likely reducing their vulnerability to gape-limited predators. Importantly, food level had an impact on the amplitude of the morphological changes. In experiment 2, goldfish were exposed to two different frequencies of predation cues or a water control for 50 days. The cues were either continued or discontinued from day 51 to 100, and all cues were resumed from day 101 to 150. We found that goldfish exposed to predation cues increased their depth and weight at a faster rate than did the goldfish exposed to water, and of particular significance was the fact that frequency of risk had an effect on the amplitude of the change. When the cues were interrupted, the increase in growth rate parameters was reduced to the level of the goldfish exposed to water. However, when the cues were resumed, the rate increased to match the growth rate of the goldfish that were continuously exposed to the cues. Finally, we staged encounters between goldfish of differing morphologies and yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and found that deep-bodied goldfish had better survival than the shallow-bodied ones. These experiments illustrate the dynamic nature of inducible morphological defences.


Predator/prey interactions Morphological defences Inducible defences Chemical cues Goldfish 



The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan provided financial support to D. P. Chivers, M. C. O. Ferrari and X. Zhao. All work reported herein was in accordance with University of Saskatchewan Committee of Animal Care and Supply protocol # 19920077.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas P. Chivers
    • 1
  • Xiaoxia Zhao
    • 1
  • Grant E. Brown
    • 2
  • Tracy A. Marchant
    • 1
  • Maud C. O. Ferrari
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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