The hunter and the hunted : A 3D analysis of predator-prey interactions between three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and larvae of different prey fishes

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2021
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Ros, Albert
Gugele, Sarah
Dunst, Julian
Geist, Juergen
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Predator-prey interactions play a key life history role, as animals cope with changing predation risk and opportunities to hunt prey. It has recently been shown that the hunting success of sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) targeting fish larvae is dependent on both the size of the prey and the prior exposure of its species to stickleback predation. The purpose of the current study was to identify the behavioural predator-prey interactions explaining the success or failure of sticklebacks hunting larvae of three potential prey species [roach (Rutilus rutilus), perch (Perca fluviatilis) and whitefish (Coregonus wartmannii)] in a 3D environment. Trials were carried out for each prey species at four different size classes in a standardised laboratory setup and were recorded using a slow motion, stereo camera setup. 75 predator-prey interactions including both failed and successful hunts were subject to the analysis. 3D track analysis indicated that sticklebacks applied different strategies. Prey with less complex predator escape responses, i.e. whitefish larvae, were hunted using a direct but stealthy approach ending in a lunge, while the behaviourally more complex roach and perch larvae were hunted with a faster approach. A multivariate logistic regression identified that slow average speed and acceleration of the prey in the initial stages of the hunt increased the probability of stickleback success. Furthermore, predators adjusted their swimming direction more often when hunting larger whitefish compared to smaller whitefish. The results suggest that appropriate and adequately timed avoidance behaviours, which vary between prey species and ontogenetic stages, significantly increase the chances of outmanoeuvring and escaping stickleback predation. Small whitefish larvae can reach similar levels of swimming performance compared to older conspecifics, but display ineffective anti-predator behaviours, resulting in higher hunting success for sticklebacks. Thus, the development of appropriate anti-predator behaviours depending on size appears to be the crucial factor to escaping predation.

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ISO 690LUCAS, Jorrit, Albert ROS, Sarah GUGELE, Julian DUNST, Juergen GEIST, Alexander BRINKER, 2021. The hunter and the hunted : A 3D analysis of predator-prey interactions between three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and larvae of different prey fishes. In: PLoS one. Public Library of Science (PLoS). 2021, 16(8), e0256427. eISSN 1932-6203. Available under: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0256427
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@article{Lucas2021hunte-55411,
  year={2021},
  doi={10.1371/journal.pone.0256427},
  title={The hunter and the hunted : A 3D analysis of predator-prey interactions between three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and larvae of different prey fishes},
  number={8},
  volume={16},
  journal={PLoS one},
  author={Lucas, Jorrit and Ros, Albert and Gugele, Sarah and Dunst, Julian and Geist, Juergen and Brinker, Alexander},
  note={Article Number: e0256427}
}
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