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Abstract

Threat sensitivity involves graded antipredator responses that reflect the degree of predatory threat encountered. Models of predatory Atlantic trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) were presented to differently sized juvenile bicolor damselfish (Pomacentrus partitus) that occurred singly or in small groups to test for threat sensitivity. Bicolor damselfish displayed threat sensitivity by responding more strongly: 1. To large models than to small models; and 2. As models were brought closer. Solitary damselfish showed stronger responses than did fish in small groups. However, no habituation to threat occurred, no correlation was found between response strength and fish size, and many individuals gave strong, ungraded responses to predator models. Comparisons between juvenile bicolor damselfish and threespot damselfish suggest that bicolor are weakly threat sensitive in that they respond strongly regardless of threat (hypersensitivity). Solitary fish are more hypersensitive than grouped fish. Threespot damselfish show a stronger influence of damselfish body size: small threespot exhibit graded responses in proportion to degree of threat (pure threat sensitivity), whereas large threespot show relatively weak responses (nonchalance). These interspecific comparisons indicate the potential range that characterizes threat sensitivity and the possible influence of social and ontogenetic factors on that range.