Indexed on: 18 Apr '06Published on: 18 Apr '06Published in: Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
Predator cues and diet, when studied separately, have been shown to affect body shape of organisms. Previous studies show that the morphological responses to predator absence/presence and diet may be similar, and hence could confound the interpretation of the causes of morphological differences found between groups of individuals. In this study, we simultaneously examined the effect of these two factors on body shape and performance in crucian carp in a laboratory experiment. Crucian carp (Carassius carassius) developed a shallow body shape when feeding on zooplankton prey and a deep body shape when feeding on benthic chironomids. In addition, the presence of chemical cues from a pike predator affected body shape, where a shallow body shape was developed in the absence of pike and a deep body shape was developed in the presence of pike. Foraging activity was low in the presence of pike cues and when chironomids were given as prey. Our results thereby suggest that the change in body shape could be indirectly mediated through differences in foraging activity. Finally, the induced body shape changes affected the foraging efficiency, where crucians raised on a zooplankton diet or in the absence of pike cues had a higher foraging success on zooplankton compared to crucian raised on a chironomid diet or in the presence of pike. These results suggest that body changes in response to predators can be associated with a cost, in terms of competition for resources.