Behavioural and Growth Responses of a Territorial Fish (Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar, L.) to Multiple Predatory Cues


Simon Blanchet and Julian J. Dodson, Département de biologie, Pavillon Vachon, Université Laval, Ste Foy, QC G1K 7P4, Canada.


Antipredatory behaviours are important fitness components. The probability of survival decreases if animals fail to respond to signs of danger, but in contrast, energetic costs increase if the response to the threat is exaggerated. We conducted a laboratory experiment designed to examine the behavioural and growth responses of a territorial fish (Atlantic salmon fry, Salmo salar, L.) to different predatory cues (no predatory cues, chemical cues alone, physical cues alone and combined chemical and physical cues). We evaluated the response of Atlantic salmon, focussing on behaviours linked to predator avoidance and to other fitness-enhancing activities (territory defence and energy acquisition) both during the day and the night. The cost of such responses in terms of growth was assessed and we compared the relative contributions of behaviours in explaining individual growth rate, according to each predation treatment. We demonstrated that the magnitude and nature of behavioural modification varied according to the response variables we considered. An index of predator avoidance and the distance from the food source were affected in an additive fashion by predatory cues (interaction term, p = 0.469 and p = 0.888 for the index of predator avoidance and the distance from the food source respectively); the effect of physical cues was stronger than the effect of chemical cues and the effect of the combined cues was highest. An index of territoriality was affected in a threshold-like fashion (interaction term, p = 0.040); chemical or physical cues alone had no effect but when both cues were combined, Atlantic salmon significantly reduced their territorial defence. An index of foraging activity was not significantly affected by predatory cues (alone or combined). We detected no effect on the growth rate of Atlantic salmon (p = 0.328). Finally, we found that the relative contribution of behaviours in explaining individual growth rate changed according to the treatments we considered. Overall, these results demonstrated that fish were able to accurately integrate multiple predatory cues and that this information was used to modulate their antipredatory response. Behaviours involved in the response were relatively independent of each other, allowing fish to adopt behavioural tactics that maximized the ratio of net energy gain to predator avoidance.