MEPS 566:159-167 (2017)  -  DOI:

Effects of turbidity on prey choice of three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus

Shakwat Sohel1, Johanna Mattila1,2, Kai Lindström1,*

1Environmental and Marine Biology, Åbo Akademi University, 20520 Turku, Finland
2Present address: Department of Aquatic Resources, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skolgatan 1, 742 42 Öregrund, Sweden
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fishes largely depend on visual cues to collect information from their surroundings. In many aquatic habitats, algal turbidity has become an imminent environmental concern. Algal turbidity reduces visibility and may therefore interact with prey preference by altering prey detection and foraging behaviour of predators. We investigated the effects of algal turbidity on prey choice decisions of 3-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus in 2 experiments manipulating turbidity levels (clear <1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 nephelometric turbidity units [NTU] in Expt 1; clear <1 and 15 NTU in Expt 2) and the proportion of prey items—large (1.8-2.0 mm) and small (0.8-1.0 mm) water fleas Daphnia magna. We found an overall negative effect of turbidity on prey consumption by stickleback. Prey selectivity was most pronounced in clear and 5 NTU water, whereas at higher turbidity levels, selectivity decreased. As the ratio of large to small prey increased, the fish became less selective. In addition, we found an interaction effect between turbidity and fish size on the total number of prey consumed. These results indicate that algal turbidity affects the prey choice decisions of sticklebacks, probably because turbidity limits their visual field. Consequently, as fish feed more randomly in turbid water, the structuring effect of fish predators on zooplankton communities will be reduced in turbid environments.

KEY WORDS: Algal turbidity · Diet choice · Optimal foraging · Zooplankton · Predator–prey

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Cite this article as: Sohel S, Mattila J, Lindström K (2017) Effects of turbidity on prey choice of three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 566:159-167.

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