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Does predation risk influence habitat use by northern redbelly dace Phoxinus eos at different spatial scales?

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This study investigated the relationship between spatial variations in predation risk and abundance of northern redbelly dace Phoxinus eos at both macroscale (littoral v. pelagic zones) and microscale (structured v. open water habitats in the littoral zone) of Canadian Shield lakes. Minnow traps were placed in both structured and open water habitats in the littoral zone of 13 Canadian Shield lakes, and estimates of the relative predation risk of P. eos in both the pelagic and the littoral zones were obtained from tethering experiments. Results showed that (1) the mean abundance of P. eos in the littoral zone was positively correlated with the relative predation risk in the pelagic zone, (2) P. eos preferentially used structured over open water habitats in the littoral zone and (3) this preference was not related to the relative predation risk in the littoral zone but decreased as the relative predation risk increased in the pelagic zone. At the lake level, these results support the hypothesis that P. eos enter the littoral zone to avoid pelagic piscivores. At the littoral zone level, the results do not necessarily contradict the widely accepted view that P. eos preferentially use structured over open habitats to reduce their predation risk, but suggest that flexibility in antipredator tactics (e.g. shelter use v. shoaling) could explain the spatial distribution of P. eos between structured and open water habitats.
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Keywords: antipredator behaviour; diel horizontal migration; habitat selection; habitat structural complexity; shelter use; tethering experiment

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Groupe de Recherche sur les Écosystèmes Aquatiques, Département de chimie-biologie, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, C.P. 500, Trois-Rivières (Québec), G9A 5H7 Canada 2: Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby (British Columbia), V5A 1S6 Canada

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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