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Oecologia. 2005 Jan;142(3):489-99. Epub 2004 Oct 28.

Spatial avoidance of littoral and pelagic invertebrate predators by Daphnia.

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  • 1Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Ch. de BĂ©riotstraat 32, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Studies on spatial avoidance behaviour of predators by prey often ignored the fact that prey typically face multiple predators which themselves interact and show a spatial pattern in abundance and predation rates (PRs). In a series of laboratory experiments, we investigated predation risk (PRI) and horizontal migration of the cladoceran Daphnia magna between open water and vegetation in response to two important invertebrate predators with a contrasting spatial distribution: pelagic Choaborus and vegetation-associated Ischnura. As expected, PRI by Chaoborus was higher in open water due to higher numbers and higher PRs of Chaoborus, while for Ischnura, PRI was highest in the vegetation due to higher densities, despite lower PRs of Ischnura. In accordance with this, Daphnia moved into the vegetation in the presence of the pelagic Chaoborus alone. In the presence of Ischnura alone, however, Daphnia showed no response. We hypothesize this may be the result of a constitutive behaviour of Daphnia to avoid pelagic fish, which impedes a response to the open water. In the combined predator treatment, Daphnia migrated to the open water zone. The increased risk of predation in the vegetation, due to a facilitating effect of Chaoborus on Ischnura PRs is believed to have caused this migration of the Daphnia. This response of Daphnia declined through time and Daphnia moved toward the vegetation. A decline in the activity of the Ischnura larvae through time may have switched the risk balance in favour of the vegetation environment.

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