Zooplankton spine induces aversion in small fish predators

TitleZooplankton spine induces aversion in small fish predators
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1991
AuthorsD. Barnhisel R

The spined cladoceran Bythotrephes cederstroemi is protected from small fish predators due to the difficulty small fish have in ingesting the spine. Juvenile yellow perch (Perca flavescens) 50-60 mm in length were offered Bythotrephes with alternative prey available in two experiments. First, perch were observed as they gained experience with Bythotrephes and developed aversion to the zooplankter. Perch initially attacked and captured Bythotrephes. However, they struggled to ingest the spined zooplankter, rejected and recaptured it many times, and finally ceased to attack it. Second, perch were offered Bythotrephes with varying portions of the spine removed to clarify the spine's role in inducing such behaviors. Perch showed greater preference to attack no-spine and half-spine Bythotrephes, and were less likely to reject and more likely to ingest Bythotrephes with the spine removed. For small or young fish that forage on zooplankton in lakes where Bythotrephes is present, aversion is an efficient response to the conspicuous but unpalatable spined cladoceran. However, aversion allows Bythotrephes, also a predator on zooplankton, to more effectively compete with young fish without an increase in predation risk.