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Survival Benefit to Antipredator Behavior in the Amphipod Gammarus minus (Crustacea: Amphipoda) in Response to Injury-released Chemical Cues from Conspecifics and Heterospecifics


Corresponding author: B. Wisenden, Department of Biology, Moorhead State University, Moorhead, Minnesota, 56563 USA. E-mail: wisenden@mhd1.


A wide range of aquatic taxa use environmental chemical cues for the assessment of predation risk. We examined whether Gammarus minus (Crustacea: Amphipoda) exhibit antipredator behavior in response to injury-released chemicals from conspecifics or heterospecifics (Crustacea: Isopoda). We then examined whether behavioral responses to these cues conferred survival benefits to the amphipods. In the first part of this study, we tested the behavioral response of G. minus to the following treatments: 1. water containing injury-released cues of conspecifics; 2. water containing injury-released cues of a sympatric isopod crustacean, Lirceus fontinalis; or 3. water containing no cues (control). Relative to the control, Gammarus responded to the conspecific cue by moving to the substratum and decreasing activity. In contrast, Gammarus responded to the heterospecific cue by moving up into the water column and increasing activity. In the second part of this study, we tested if the behavioral response to these cues confers a survival benefit to Gammarus when exposed to a predator. A green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) was retained behind a partition in the test tanks. Two minutes after the introduction of the chemical cues in the first test, the barrier was lifted and predation events recorded. Relative to the control, the time to the first attack increased for Gammarus exposed to conspecific cues and decreased for those exposed to heterospecific cues. These data indicate that Gammarus distinguish between chemical cues from conspecific and heterospecific crustaceans, and that the antipredator response to conspecific cues confers a fitness benefit (i.e. increased survival due to increased time to the first attack).