Does risk of intraspecific interactions induce shifts in prey-size preference in aquatic: predators?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Interactions between foragers may seriously affect individual foraging efficiency. In a laboratory study of handling time, prey value and prey-size prefer ence in northern pike and signal crayfish, we show that risk of intraspecific interactions between predators does not affect handling time or value of prey. However, the presence of agonistic intraspecific interactors shifts prey-size preference in these predators. Neither northern pike nor signal crayfish foraging alone show a prey-size preference, while pike foraging among conspecifics prefer small prey, and crayfish foraging in groups prefer large prey. We ascribe the different outcomes in prey preference to differences in susceptibility to interactions: northern pike under risk avoid large prey to avoid long handling times and the associated risk of interactions, while signal crayfish foraging among conspecifics may defend themselves and their prey during handling, and thus select prey to maximise investment. In addition, the value of pike prey (roach) is low for very small prey, maximises for small prey, and then decreases monotonically for larger prey, while crayfish prey (pond snail) value is low for very small prey, has a maximum at small prey, but does not decrease as much for larger prey. Therefore, a large and easily detected snail prey provides a crayfish with as much value as a small prey. We conclude that interaction risk and predator density affect prey-size preference differently in these aquatic predators, and therefore has different potential effects on prey-size structure and population and community dynamics.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-275
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch