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Predator (Carcinus maenas) nonconsumptive limitation of prey (Nucella lapillus) feeding depends on prey density and predator cue type

Boudreau, Melanie L., Scrosati, Ricardo A., Wong, Melisa C.
Journal of ethology 2018 v.36 no.3 pp. 259-264
Carcinus maenas, Cirripedia, Nucella lapillus, antipredatory behavior, crabs, laboratory experimentation, mussels, predation, predators, risk assessment
Predators often have nonconsumptive effects (NCEs) on prey. For example, upon detection of predator cues, prey can reduce feeding activities to hamper being detected by predators. Previous research showed that waterborne chemical cues from green crabs (Carcinus maenas, predator) limit the dogwhelk (Nucella lapillus, prey) consumption of barnacles regardless of dogwhelk density, even though individual predation risk for dogwhelks decreases with conspecific density. Such NCEs might disappear with dogwhelk density if dogwhelks feed on mussels, as mussel stands constitute better antipredator refuges than barnacle stands. Through a laboratory experiment, we effectively found that crab chemical cues limit the per-capita consumption of mussels by dogwhelks at low dogwhelk density but not at high density. The combination of tactile and chemical cues from crabs, however, limited the dogwhelk consumption of mussels at both dogwhelk densities. The occurrence of such NCEs at both dogwhelk densities could have resulted from tactile cues indicating a stronger predation risk than chemical cues alone. Overall, the present study reinforces the notions that prey evaluate conspecific density when assessing predation risk and that predator cue type affects their perception of risk.