Avian predators transmit fear along the air-water interface influencing prey and their parental care
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© 2016, Canadian Science Publishing. All rights reserved. The nonconsumptive consequences of predators on prey behavior, survival, and demography have recently garnered significant attention by ecologists. However, the impacts of top predators on free-ranging prey are challenging to evaluate because the most common fright response for prey is to leave the area of risk. Additionally, the top-down impacts of avian predators on aquatic environments are surprisingly overlooked. Here we investigated the nonconsumptive effects of avian predators on parental care in pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus (L., 1758)) through use of a realistic model of a predatory bird, the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus (L., 1758)). Our predator model exacted dramatic metabolic fright responses and inducible defenses in experimental fish resulting in significant behavioral changes with respect to their parental care. Key parental behaviors including in-nest rotations and egg and nest maintenance were noticeably altered by predator treatments demonstrating as much as an order of magnitude difference in parental performance, suggesting that even transient predation risk might decrease reproductive fitness. Our data provide important new insights on how the landscape of fear operates along the air-water interface and suggests that avian predators may have greater controlling effects on fish populations than previously thought.
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