1. Non-native predators might inflict proportionally higher mortality on prey that have no previous experience of them, compared to species that have coexisted with the predator for some time.
2. We tested whether juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) were less able to recognise a non-native than a native predator, by investigating behavioural responses to the chemical cues of the invasive smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and the native northern pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) in both laboratory and field experiments.
3. Laboratory results demonstrated strong innate antipredator responses of individual juvenile Chinook salmon to northern pikeminnow; fish spent 70% of time motionless and exhibited 100% greater panic response than in controls. By contrast, antipredator responses to the chemical cues of smallmouth bass did not differ from controls.
4. These results were supported by similar differences in recognition of these predator odours by groups of juvenile Chinook salmon in fully natural conditions, though responses reflected a greater range of antipredator behaviours by individuals. In field trials, responses to northern pikeminnow odour resulted in increased flight or absence, reductions in swimming and foraging, and increased time spent near the substratum, compared to smallmouth bass odour.
5. Given that survival of juvenile fish is facilitated by predator recognition, our results support the hypothesis that naivety may be an important factor determining the effect of non-native predators on prey populations. Efforts to manage the effect of native and non-native predators may benefit by considering complex behavioural interactions, such as these at the individual and group levels.