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Response to conspecific and heterospecific alarm cues by pumpkinseeds in simple and complex habitats: field verification of an ontogenetic shift

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Three focal size classes [small (<40 mm, standard length, LS), medium (40–80 mm LS) and large (>80 mm LS)] of pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus were exposed to conspecific or one of three heterospecific chemical alarm cues under one of three levels of habitat complexity (low, intermediate and high). Under low and intermediate habitat complexities, pumpkinseeds <80 mm LS exhibited a significant antipredator response when exposed to the chemical alarm cues of heterospecific prey guild members (largemouth bass Micropterus salmonides and hypoxanthine‐3‐N‐oxide, the putative Ostariophysan alarm ‘pheromone’), while pumpkinseeds >80 mm LS exhibited a foraging response. Under highly complex habitats, pumpkinseeds of all three size classes exhibited an antipredator response. Moreover, under all three habitat conditions, pumpkinseeds of all size classes exhibited an antipredator response to conspecific alarm cues. There was no change in behaviour under any treatment combination in response to an allopatric heterospecific control (swordtails Xiphophorus helleri). These results provide the first field verification of the size dependent use of chemical alarm cues by centrarchids and demonstrate that microhabitat complexity significantly influences the threat‐sensitive use of these cues.
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Keywords: antipredator behaviour; centrarchids; chemical alarm cues; foraging cues; ontogenetic shifts; predator‐prey interactions

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Biology, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke W. Montreal, Quebec, H4B 1R6, Canada

Publication date: 01 April 2005

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