Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 805–812 | Cite as

Growth history and intrinsic factors influence risk assessment at a critical life transition for a fish



Making the appropriate decision in the face of predation risk dictates the fate of prey, and predation risk is highest at life history boundaries such as settlement. At the end of the larval phase, most coral reef fishes enter patches of reef containing novel predators. Since vision is often obscured in the complex surroundings, chemical information released from damaged conspecific is used to forewarn prey of an active predator. However, larvae enter the reef environment with their own feeding and growth histories, which will influence their motivation to feed and take risks. The present study explored the link between recent growth, feeding history, current performance and behavioural risk taking in newly settling stages of a coral reef damselfish (Pomacentrus amboinensis). Older and larger juveniles in good body condition had a stronger response to chemical alarm cues of injured conspecifics; these fish spent a longer time in shelter and displayed a more dramatic decrease in foraging behaviour than fish in lower body condition. Feeding experiments supported these findings and emphasized the importance of body condition in affecting risk assessment. Evidently, larval growth history and body condition influences the likelihood of taking risks under the threat of predation immediately after settlement, thereby affecting the probability of survival in P. amboinensis.


Chemical alarm cues Pomacentrus amboinensis Body condition Risk assessment 



We thank L. Vail and A. Hogget for logistic support. J. Maddams processed the otoliths used in this study. This study was funded through an Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Research was conducted under JCU ethics approval A1067.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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