Algal turbidity reduces risk assessment ability of the three-spined stickleback

Shakwat Sohel, Kai Lindström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Recent anthropogenic increases in algal turbidity in aquatic habitats have been suggested to affect the ability of fish to assess predation risk. We investigated the response of feeding three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) exposed to a sudden appearance of an avian predator (the silhouette of common tern, Sterna hirundo), under clear and turbid water conditions. As stickleback use social cues to aid in predator avoidance, we also tested whether turbidity affected social information use by manipulating group size. We found that in turbid water, a smaller proportion of fish would escape from the feeding area, that the distance escaped was shorter and that a smaller proportion of fish fled into shelter. Larger group size was associated with longer escape distance and greater shelter use. However, there was no effect of group size on the proportion of fish that escaped the arena. The effect of group size was similar for turbid and clear water. Our finding that the fish showed a weaker antipredator response suggests that turbidity impedes their risk assessment capability. However, the sticklebacks were still able to benefit of the social facilitation provided by being in a group. This suggests that algal turbidity has detrimental effects on the ability of sticklebacks to assess predation risk from avian predators in shallow water. An implication is that in shallow water fish may be more vulnerable to avian predation under turbid conditions.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)548–555
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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