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Abstract

Pike-naive fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were fed ad libitum or deprived of food for 12, 24, or 48 h and then exposed to either conspecific alarm pheromone or distilled water and the odour of a predatory northern pike (Esox lucius). Minnows fed ad libitum or deprived for 12 h showed a stereotypic alarm response to the alarm pheromone (increased time under cover objects and increased occurrence of dashing and freezing behaviour); those deprived of food for 24 h showed a significantly reduced alarm response, while those deprived of food for 48 h did not differ significantly from the minnows exposed to a distilled water control. Upon subsequent testing in an Opto-Varimex activity meter, all groups initially exposed to alarm pheromone and pike odour exhibited an alarm response when exposed to pike odour alone. Those initially conditioned with distilled water and pike odour did nor show an alarm response to pike odour alone. These results demonstrate that there exists a significant trade-off between hunger level and predator-avoidance behaviour in fathead minnows and that minnows can learn the chemical cues of a predatory northern pike through association with alarm pheromone even in the absence of an observable alarm response.