Predator Generalization Decreases the Effect of Introduced Predators in the San Marcos Salamander, Eurycea nana


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The introduction of novel predators into an environment can have detrimental consequences on prey species, especially if these species lack the ability to recognize these predators. One such species that may be negatively affected by introduced predators is the federally threatened San Marcos salamander (Eurycea nana). Previous research found that predator‐naïve (captive‐hatched) salamanders showed decreased activity in response to the chemical cues of both a native fish predator (Micropterus salmoides) and an introduced fish predator (Lepomis auritus), but not to a non‐predatory fish (Gambusia geiseri). We tested the hypothesis that E. nana recognized the introduced Lepomis (and other non‐native Lepomis) because they share chemical cues with other native congeneric Lepomis predators in the San Marcos River. We examined the antipredator response of predator‐naïve E. nana to chemical cues from (1) a sympatric native sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus; Perciformes: Centrarchidae); (2) a sympatric introduced sunfish (L. auritus); (3) an allopatric sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus); (4) a sympatric non‐native, non‐centrarchid cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatum; Perciformes: Cichlidae); and (5) a blank water control to determine whether individuals make generalizations about novel predators within a genus and across a family. Exposure to chemical cues from all fish predator treatments caused a reduction in salamander activity (antipredator response). Additionally, there were no differences in the antipredator responses to each predatory fish treatment. The similar responses to all sunfish treatments indicate that E. nana shows predator generalization in response to novel predators that are similar to recognized predators. Additionally, the antipredator response to H. cyanoguttatum indicates that predator generalization can occur among perciform families.

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Ethology, Vol. 118, no. 12 (2012-12).