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Species-specific antipredator capacities and prey refuges Interactions between piscivorous perch and juvenile perch and roach

Species-specific antipredator capacities and prey refuges Interactions between piscivorous perch and juvenile perch and roach

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 37(3): 169-178

The outcome of predator-prey interactions depends on the characteristics of predators and prey as well as the structure of the environment. In a replicated field enclosure experiment, we tested the effects of quantity and quality of different prey refuges (no structure, structure forming a partial refuge, and structure forming a complete refuge) on the interaction between piscivorous perch (Perca fluviatilis) and juvenile perch and roach (Rutilus rutilus). We quantified the behaviour of the predators and the prey and predator-induced prey mortality. The piscivores stayed in or close to the prey refuge and were more dispersed in the presence than in the absence of prey refuges. Survival of juvenile perch and roach decreased in the presence of predators and was higher for juvenile roach than for juvenile perch. In addition, juvenile perch survival increased with refuge efficiency. Roach formed schools which were denser in the presence of predators, had a higher swimming speed (both in the open water and in the refuge) and used a larger area than juvenile perch. Both prey species decreased their distance to the prey refuge and increased the proportion of their time spent in the refuge in the presence of predators. The number of switches between the open-water habitat and the prey refuge was higher for juvenile roach than for juvenile perch. Juvenile perch used different parts of the prey refuge in a flexible way depending both on presence of predators and refuge type whereas juvenile roach used the different parts of the prey refuge in fixed proportions over all refuge treatments. Our results suggest that juvenile roach had a overall higher capacity to avoid predation than juvenile perch. However, in the presence of qualitatively different prey refuges juvenile perch responded to predators with more flexible refuge use than juvenile roach. The differences in antipredator capacities of juvenile perch and roach when subjected to piscivorous perch predation may depend on differences in life history patterns of the two species.

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