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Risk assessment and predator learning in a changing world: understanding the impacts of coral reef degradation
Chivers, D.P.; McCormick, M.I.; Allan, B.J.M.; Ferrari, M.C.O. (2016). Risk assessment and predator learning in a changing world: understanding the impacts of coral reef degradation. NPG Scientific Reports 6(32542): 7 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Chivers, D.P.
  • McCormick, M.I.
  • Allan, B.J.M.
  • Ferrari, M.C.O.

    Habitat degradation is among the top drivers of the loss of global biodiversity. This problem is particularly acute in coral reef system. Here we investigated whether coral degradation influences predator risk assessment and learning for damselfish. When in a live coral environment, Ambon damselfish were able to learn the identity of an unknown predator upon exposure to damselfish alarm cues combined with predator odour and were able to socially transmit this learned recognition to naïve conspecifics. However, in the presence of dead coral water, damselfish failed to learn to recognize the predator through alarm cue conditioning and hence could not transmit the information socially. Unlike alarm cues of Ambon damselfish that appear to be rendered unusable in degraded coral habitats, alarm cues of Nagasaki damselfish remain viable in this same environment. Nagasaki damselfish were able to learn predators through conditioning with alarm cues in degraded habitats and subsequently transmit the information socially to Ambon damselfish. Predator-prey dynamics may be profoundly affected as habitat degradation proceeds; the success of one species that appears to have compromised predation assessment and learning, may find itself reliant on other species that are seemingly unaffected by the same degree of habitat degradation.

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