Top-predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology

Palacios, M. M., Killen, S. S. , Nadler, L. E., White, J. R. and McCormick, M. I. (2016) Top-predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85(4), pp. 1078-1086. (doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12523) (PMID:27113316) (PMCID:PMC4999042)

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Predation theory and empirical evidence suggest that top predators benefit the survival of resource prey through the suppression of mesopredators. However, whether such behavioural suppression can also affect the physiology of resource prey has yet to be examined. Using a three-tier reef fish food web and intermittent-flow respirometry, our study examined changes in the metabolic rate of resource prey exposed to combinations of mesopredator and top predator cues. Under experimental conditions, the mesopredator (dottyback, Pseudochromis fuscus) continuously foraged and attacked resource prey (juveniles of the damselfish Pomacentrus amboinensis) triggering an increase in prey O2 uptake by 38 ± 12·9% (mean ± SE). The visual stimulus of a top predator (coral trout, Plectropomus leopardus) restricted the foraging activity of the mesopredator, indirectly allowing resource prey to minimize stress and maintain routine O2 uptake. Although not as strong as the effect of the top predator, the sight of a large non-predator species (thicklip wrasse, Hemigymnus melapterus) also reduced the impact of the mesopredator on prey metabolic rate. We conclude that lower trophic-level species can benefit physiologically from the presence of top predators through the behavioural suppression that top predators impose on mesopredators. By minimizing the energy spent on mesopredator avoidance and the associated stress response to mesopredator attacks, prey may be able to invest more energy in foraging and growth, highlighting the importance of the indirect, non-consumptive effects of top predators in marine food webs.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Killen, Professor Shaun and Nadler, Miss Lauren
Authors: Palacios, M. M., Killen, S. S., Nadler, L. E., White, J. R., and McCormick, M. I.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Animal Ecology
Publisher:Blackwell Publishing
ISSN (Online):1365-2656
Published Online:25 April 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Journal of Animal Ecology 85(4):1078-1086
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
594261The Influence of Individual Physiology on Group Behaviour in Fish SchoolsShaun KillenNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J019100/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED