Who dares, learns: Chemical inspection behaviour and acquired predator recognition in a characin fish
Individuals that dare approach predators (predator inspection behaviour) may benefit by acquiring information regarding the potential threat of predation. Although information acquisition based on visual cues has been demonstrated for fish, it is unknown whether fish will inspect predators on the basis of chemical cues or whether such inspection behaviour results in information acquisition. Here, we first ascertained whether predator inspection behaviour can be mediated by chemical cues from predators by exposing groups of predator-naive glowlight tetras (Hemigrammus erythrozonus) to the chemical cues of a potential fish predator (convict cichlid, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum) that had been fed either tetras (which possess an alarm pheromone) or swordtails (Xiphophorus helleri, which lack Ostariophysan alarm pheromones). Tetras showed a significant increase in antipredator behaviour when exposed to the tetra-diet cue, but not when exposed to the swordtail-diet cue. Chemically mediated predator inspection behaviour was also affected. Both the latency to inspect and the minimum approach distance to the predator significantly increased, and the mean number of inspectors per predator inspection visit significantly decreased when tetras were exposed to the tetra-diet versus the swordtail-diet chemical cues. We then examined a potential benefit associated with chemically mediated predator inspection behaviour. Only tetras that were initially exposed to the tetra-diet cue and that had inspected the predator acquired the visual recognition of a convict cichlid as a predation threat. Our results thus demonstrate that (1) predator inspection behaviour in the glowing tetra can be initiated by chemical cues, (2) chemically mediated inspection behaviour is affected by the presence of alarm pheromone, and (3) inspectors benefit by acquiring the recognition of novel predators.
Brown, G.E. (Grant E.), & Godin, J.-G.J. (1999). Who dares, learns: Chemical inspection behaviour and acquired predator recognition in a characin fish. Animal Behaviour, 57(2), 475–481. doi:10.1006/anbe.1998.1017