The comparative approach has become a powerful tool for understanding how predation has shaped prey behavior. In this study we recorded the occurrence of common aquatic predator species and their densities in seven natural populations of Trinidadian guppies, Poecilia reticulata. We then exposed shoals of guppies from each of these populations to a series of predator treatments. Predator treatments differed in the species of predator used (pike cichlids, Crenicichla frenata; rivulus, Rivulus hartii; and freshwater prawns, Macrobrachium carcinus) and thus in the level of risk posed. We recorded the antipredator responses of guppies in each of these predator treatments.
The strength of antipredator behavior shown by guppies was affected by both the type of predator they were exposed to and the level of predation risk they experienced naturally in the wild. Importantly, we found that guppies from high-risk populations showed a heightened response, compared to those from lower risk populations, only when exposed to the predator species that posed the greatest risk. Our results show the importance of individual predator species in shaping the behavioral traits of prey species at the population level. This has implications for prey movement between habitats that are geographically close but differ greatly in predator fauna.