Shovelnose sturgeon exhibit predator avoidance behaviour in the presence of a hungry predator

Authors

  • W. D. Hintz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
    • Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences, Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
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  • G. T. Grimes,

    1. Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences, Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
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  • J. E. Garvey

    1. Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences, Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
    2. Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
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Author's address: William D. Hintz, Center for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences, Southern Illinois University, 1125 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901-6511, USA.

E-mail: hintzwd@siu.edu

Summary

An experiment was designed to test whether age-0 shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus platorynchus) exhibited predator avoidance behaviour in response to a channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) predator. It was hypothesized that shovelnose sturgeon would not exhibit any innate predator avoidance behaviour because previous reports have shown a congener of the shovelnose sturgeon, the pallid sturgeon (S. albus), to be an unfavourable prey item for channel catfish. The results, however, indicated that shovelnose sturgeon generally avoided space occupied by the catfish predator and spent a greater proportion of time in the predator avoidance zone within the experimental tank. Bitten fish, in particular, spent a greater period of time in the predator avoidance zone. Of all sturgeon used in this experiment (N = 30), 73% swam within the fork length (350 mm) of the catfish predator. The results seem to indicate that shovelnose sturgeon were initially oblivious to the risk of predation by the catfish predator, but after interaction (e.g. being chased or bitten) appeared to display predator avoidance behaviour. Predator avoidance behaviour in shovelnose sturgeon may thus be suggested as a learned rather than an innate behaviour.

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