Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 10, pp 1953–1970 | Cite as

Ecological Consequences of Chemically Mediated Prey Perception

  • Marc J. Weissburg
  • Matthew C. Ferner
  • Daniel P. Pisut
  • Delbert L. Smee


To locate food, mobile consumers in aquatic habitats perceive and move towards sources of attractive chemicals. There has been much progress in understanding how consumers use chemicals to identify and locate prey despite the elusive identity of odor signals and the complex effects of turbulence on chemical dispersion. This review highlights how integrative studies on behavior, fluid physics, and chemical isolation can be fundamental in elucidating mechanisms that regulate species composition and distribution. We suggest three areas where further research may yield important ecological insights. First, although basic aspects of stimulatory molecules are known, our understanding of how consumers identify prey from a distance remains poor, and the lack of studies examining the influence of distance perception on food preference may result in inaccurate estimation of foraging behavior in the field. Second, the ability of many animals to find prey is greatest in unidirectional, low turbulence flow environments, although recent evidence indicates a trade-off in movement speed versus tracking ability in turbulent conditions. This suggests that predator foraging mode may affect competitive interactions among consumers, and that turbulence provides a hydrodynamic refuge in space or time, leading to particular associations between predator success, prey distributions, and flow. Third, studies have been biased towards examining predator tracking. Current data suggest a variety of mechanisms prey may use to disguise their presence and avoid predation; these mechanisms also may produce associations between prey and flow environments. These examples of how chemical attraction may mediate interactions between consumers and their resources suggest that the ecology of chemically mediated prey perception may be as fundamental to the organization of aquatic communities as the ecology of chemical deterrence.

Chemical attraction chemosensation community structure flow foraging odor plumes olfaction orientation predator-prey turbulence 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marc J. Weissburg
    • 1
  • Matthew C. Ferner
    • 1
  • Daniel P. Pisut
    • 1
  • Delbert L. Smee
    • 1
  1. 1.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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