Prey or predator: 0+ perch (Perca fluviatilis) in the trade-off between food and shelter
The 0+ cohort of perch can split into a slow-growing planktivorous and a fast-growing piscivorous cohort during their first months of life. Both cohorts are, however, vulnerable to predation by piscivorous fish. Laboratory experiments were performed to test the behavior of 0+ perch as a predator of cyprinids, and in the trade-off between food and shelter from the threat of predators. In the foraging trials, 0+ perch attacked bream faster than they did carp, and vegetation hampered the aggression against bream. In the second experiment, the habitat selection of two size classes of 0+ perch under the threat of predation was monitored. Overall, vegetation structures were preferred by both size classes of 0+ perch. When small fish were offered to the 0+ perch as food, the open water becomes more attractive. The results of the habitat use trials further show that the two size cohorts of 0+ perch may also differ in their behavior, in that the availability of fish as food becomes more important than the shelter of vegetation structures for the larger perch.
KeywordsPiscivorous 0+ perch Size cohorts Behavioral adaptations Predation risk Structural complexity Predator avoidance
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My thanks are due to Alex Burmann, Rieke Hilverling and Marcel Kathol for their comprehensive help conducting the laboratory experiments. The valuable comments by Peter Beeck are gratefully acknowledged, as well as the help of Philipp Fischer and Markus Weitere with some statistics. The comments by two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the manuscript. I also thank Frederic Bartlett for improving the English text.
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