The effectiveness of the induced anti-predator behaviour of zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha in the presence of molluscivorous roach Rutilus rutilus

Research paper by Jarosław Kobak, Tomasz Kakareko

Indexed on: 08 Jun '11Published on: 08 Jun '11Published in: Aquatic Ecology


We checked whether the induced anti-predator defences of zebra mussels are able to affect the predation success of roach, being one of the most efficient zebra mussel predators in Europe. Previously, several anti-predator defences of mussels have been observed in the presence of roach, including stronger attachment, aggregation forming and inhibition of upward movement. However, the actual efficiency of these responses to reduce the mussel vulnerability to predation was unknown. To check the effectiveness of attachment strength, we exposed mussels for 6 (strong attachment), 1 (weak attachment) or 0 (unattached) days in ceramic trays and then presented the trays to fish in an experimental tank. To test the effectiveness of aggregation, we glued mussels to the trays in groups of three (touching one another) or singly using denture glue and exposed them to fish. To check the effect of the vertical position, we glued mussels with denture glue to the bottom and 10, 20 and 30 cm above the bottom of the tank with fish. After 1-h exposure, we determined the percentages of consumed mussels. Roach predation rate was lowest on strongly attached mussels, intermediate on weakly attached mussels and highest on unattached mussels. Aggregated mussels were less frequently consumed than singletons. Conversely, the vertical position of mussels did not affect the roach predation success. Our study demonstrates that the behavioural defences exhibited by zebra mussels can increase their survival in the presence of predators and thus emphasizes the importance of the anti-predator behaviour of this species.