Temporal and spatial patterns in behavioral responses of marine predators to a sudden influx of abalone prey (Haliotis rufescens)
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Predator–prey interactions exist on a variety of spatial and temporal scales; one of the earliest measurable responses to changes in these interactions is behavior. We examined the behavior of southern California kelp forest predators in response to a concentrated increase in the abundance of abalone during a restoration stocking experiment. We tested three hypotheses: (1) kelp forest predator density will increase following abalone stocking, (2) variations in predator characteristics will create an unequal impact on abalone, and (3) predation intensity will be greatest early in the experiment. Octopus discovered and exploited the influx of prey within the first week following stocking; their densities surged and then returned to pre-stocking levels after 2 months. This was not observed with any other predator. Damage from crustacean, fish, and octopus predation was observed on the recovered abalone shells, but were not correlated with predator densities. A larger percentage of recovered small shells had evidence of crustacean and fish predation, indicating there may be size-specific impacts of predators on abalone. Our results demonstrate that restoration stocking experiments can quantitatively test the predatory community’s response to reintroductions, as well as predation risk of newly stocked prey species when exposed to a diverse suite of predators.
KeywordsRestoration ecology Red abalone Predator behavior Predation risk Predator diversity Octopus bimaculatus
The authors wish to thank C. Dobbins aka the Greatest Boat Captain of All Time, staff and volunteers from the Aquarium of the Pacific and the California Science Center, and divers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, University of California Davis, and Bay Foundation for their assistance in the field and abalone care. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center provided crucial support. D. Witting and M. Neuman provided essential experimental advice and dive support. B. Hagey and Pisces Design contributed camera equipment. Thank you to our additional divers and topside support: T. Winquist, A. Maguire, K. Magaña, M. Morse, D. Osorio, A. Raffety, and K. Gilardi. The authors wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers for the time and care they took in editing the manuscript. Funding was supplied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Section 6 No. NA10NMF4720024.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.
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