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Cues from Introduced Fish Alter Shelter Use and Feeding Behaviour in Adult Alpine Newts



Laurane Winandy and Mathieu Denoël, Laboratory of Fish and Amphibian Ethology, Behavioural Biology Unit, Department of Biology, Ecology and Evolution, University of Liège, 22 Quai van Beneden, 4020 Liège, Belgium.



Amphibians are particularly affected by alien fish introductions and are declining worldwide. However, the behavioural mechanisms behind the observed cases of coexistence and exclusion patterns between adult amphibians and fish are poorly understood. In the present study, we aimed at testing the hypothesis that adult newts display different feeding and space use behaviour in the presence of fish cues (i.e. access less food resources and use more shelters than when fish cues are absent). To achieve this we measured behavioural patterns in 100 adult Alpine newts (Mesotriton alpestris) in a replicated laboratory design (20 tanks × 7 replicates across time). Half of trials involved individuals in indirect (visual and olfactory) contact with goldfish (Carassius auratus), a non-predatory species for adult newts. In the presence of fish, significantly more newts hid under shelters than in their absence, but this difference decreased over time. A lower number of newts fed in comparison with controls. These results show that newts responded to fish presence even in the absence of direct contact, but the differences were small. Newts decreased vital activities such as exploration of open areas and feeding. They also adjusted shelter use over time, suggesting a process of habituation or a risk assessment in the absence of direct risk. These results reveal that exploring behavioural patterns can aid in understanding the causes of exclusion and coexistence patterns between fish and amphibians.