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Anim Behav. 1999 Nov;58(5):933-942.

The foraging and antipredator behaviour of growth-enhanced transgenic Atlantic salmon.

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Department of Zoology, University of Manitoba


Growth rate has been established as a key parameter influencing foraging decisions involving the risk of predation. Through genetic manipulation, transgenic salmon bred to contain and transmit a growth hormone transgene are able to achieve growth rates significantly greater than those of unmanipulated salmon. Using such growth-enhanced transgenic Atlantic salmon, we directly tested the hypothesis that relative growth rates should be correlated with willingness to risk exposure to a predator. We used size-matched transgenic and control salmon in two experiments where these fish could either feed in safety, or in the presence of the predator. The first experiment constrained the predator behind a Plexiglas partition (no risk of mortality), the second required the fish to feed in the same compartment as the predator (a finite risk of mortality). During these experiments, transgenic salmon had rates of consumption that were approximately five times that of the control fish and rates of movement approximately double that of controls. Transgenic salmon also spent significantly more time feeding in the presence of the predator, and consumed absolutely more food at that location. When there was a real risk of mortality, control fish almost completely avoided the dangerous location. Transgenic fish continued to feed at this location, but at a reduced level. These data demonstrate that the growth enhancement associated with the transgenic manipulation increases the level of risk these fish are willing to incur while foraging. If the genetic manipulation necessary to increase growth rates is achievable through evolutionary change, these experiments suggest that growth rates of Atlantic salmon may be optimized by the risk of predation.


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