Predation pressure and food abundance during early life alter risk-taking behaviour and growth of guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

in Behaviour
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Abstract

The trade-off between predation risk and the need to feed is one of the major constraints animals have to cope with. Virtually all animals have a higher risk of being preyed upon when being active (e.g., searching for food or mating partners), compared with being inactive (e.g., staying at their burrows, nests, etc.). Yet, staying safe leads to a higher risk of starvation and may reduce reproductive success and body growth. Hence selection on behaviour optimizing the search, handling and digestion of food while avoiding the risk of predation is strong and should lead to strategies maximising survival chances and inclusive fitness. These facts call for integrative studies manipulating both, abundance of food and predation risk in a factorial set up, analysing the effects of both factors on behaviour and physiological parameters. We present results of a 2 × 2 factorial experiment, manipulating risk of predation and food abundance in guppies. We found that the two factors have an additive effect on body growth, but that predation risk by a pike cichlid is the main factor affecting the expression of behavioural strategies in guppies. Low food availability and high predation risk led to lower body growth. High predation risk affected swimming depth and risk sensitivity of guppies and might represent adaptive behavioural changes to the environmental context experienced in early life. Our study shows that integrative studies, analysing multiple interdependent and interconnected factors in the wild and in the lab are needed to further understand animal behaviour and development.

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