Anti-predator Behavior in Response to Conspecific Visual, Olfactory, and Damage Cues in the Three-spined Stickleback
Claire Van Meter
Predation is a major source of mortality for prey, which creates a selective pressure forbeing able to avoid predators whenever possible. By using alarm cues produced by conspecifics,organisms can be alerted of nearby predators without coming in direct contact with them.However, we do not know whether individuals can distinguish between different kinds ofconspecific cues and if some types of cues may indicate a more severe predation threat comparedto others. Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are used as a model for behavioralstudies because their defense responses have been well studied and identified, and they areknown to respond to both predatory and conspecific visual and olfactory cues. I studied theability of the three-spined stickleback to distinguish between environmental cues by exposingconspecifics to four different types of conspecific alarm cues: cues of predator-naïveconspecifics (control water with unexposed demonstrator), visual cues of predator-exposed conspecifics (control water with predator-exposed demonstrator), visual and conspecificolfactory cues (stress cues and predator-exposed demonstrator), and visual, conspecific olfactory,and conspecific damage cues (stress cues, damage cues, and predator-exposed demonstrator). For 5 minutes before and after exposure to the cues, I watched for four key defensive behaviors:hiding in plants, hiding in the gravel at the bottom of the tank, swimming into the walls of thetank, and shoaling. I assayed 40 conspecifics over 8 weeks, for a total of 160 trials. Directly after each assay, I placed the focal subject in 200ml of RO water in a 600ml beaker for 1 hour to collect waterborne cortisol. I will run this water through ELISA assays to measure the cortisol concentration in the sample. I hypothesize that the conspecifics will be able to distinguish between the severity of the cues, causing an increase in anti-predator behavior response in exposure to all the combined cues in comparison to a few, or none of the cues. I anticipate that through this research, we will gain a better understanding of the influence of conspecific communication, specifically regarding how conspecifics interpret olfactory and visual conspecific cues. Anti-predator behavior is often costly, so being able to determine when such behavior is necessary based on conspecific communication could be a key factor in the survival and success of species.
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences
"Anti-predator Behavior in Response to Conspecific Visual, Olfactory, and Damage Cues in the Three-spined Stickleback" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 2788.