Environmental Conditions and Intraspecific Interference: Unexpected Effects of Turbidity on Pike (Esox lucius) Foraging
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Interference among predators decreases per capita foraging rates and has implications for both community dynamics and top-down trophic processes. Interference originates from behavioural interactions among foragers, and these behaviours could be affected by environmental conditions. In experiments on pike foraging alone or among conspecifics in different levels of water turbidity, we expected high turbidity to decrease the perceived risk of intraspecific interactions among pike, and thereby decrease the strength of interference, as turbidity would decrease the visual contact between individuals and act as a refuge from behavioural interactions. The results show that this is not the case, but suggest that interference is induced instead of reduced in high turbidity. Per capita foraging rates do not differ between pike foraging alone or in groups in our clear and moderately turbid treatments, indicating no effect of interference. As high turbidity enhances prey consumption for pike individuals foraging alone, but does not have this effect for pike in groups, high turbidity induces the relative interference effect. We suggest that future evaluations of the stabilizing effects of interference on community dynamics and its reduction of predation impact on top-down trophic cascades should consider potential unexpected effects of environmental conditions.