MEPS 175:129-142 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps175129

Predation vulnerability of planktonic copepods: consequences of predator foraging strategies and prey sensory abilities

Markku Viitasalo1,*, Thomas Kiørboe2, Juha Flinkman1,3, Lars W. Pedersen2, André W. Visser2

1Tvärminne Zoological Station and Department of Ecology and Systematics, Division of Hydrobiology, PO Box 17, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
2Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Kavalérgården 6, DK-2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
3Finnish Institute of Marine Research, PO Box 33, FIN-00931 Helsinki, Finland
*Address for correspondence: Department of Ecology and Systematics, Division of Hydrobiology, PO Box 17, FIN-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: We investigated the vulnerability of 2 copepod species (Eurytemora affinis and Temora longicornis) to predation by predators with different foraging modes, three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus juveniles and mysid shrimps Neomysis integer. Copepods were videofilmed escaping from predators and from an artificial flow field, and the results were used in a model of hydrodynamic disturbance generated by a predator. The copepods detected mysids from a significantly larger distance than they detected sticklebacks (0.45 and 0.24 cm, respectively). Consequently, the capture success of the sticklebacks was higher than that of mysids. In the case of sticklebacks foraging on E. affinis, copepod reaction distance was significantly correlated with stickleback approaching speed; sticklebacks captured a copepod only if they were able to slowly approach to within a strike distance of <0.1 cm from the prey. Also, there was a major difference between the vulnerabilities of the 2 prey species: the capture success of sticklebacks was 92% with T. longicornis and 53% with E. affinis. This corresponded with experiments with artificial flow, where the threshold fluid velocity gradient eliciting an escape response in copepods was 4 times higher in T. longicornis than in E. affinis (8.2 and 2.1 s-1, respectively). The hydrodynamic model accurately predicted the positive relationship between stickleback approaching speed and copepod reaction distance, as well as the difference between the 2 copepod species. This suggests that, by using simple artificial flow experiments, we can rank various zooplankton species according to their escape capabilities, and thus predict their vulnerability to predation by small fish with different motility patterns. In contrast, the model did not conform with observations on mysids. Apparently, the hydrodynamic disturbance created by a mysid is not related to its swimming speed, but to some other factor, such as the beat rate of swimming appendages.

KEY WORDS: Predation vulnerability · Escape response · Hydrodynamic signals · Prey selection · Eurytemora affinis · Temora longicornis · Gasterosteus aculeatus · Neomysis integer

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