Clamming up: environmental forces diminish the perceptive ability of bivalve prey
Smee, Delbert L.
Weissburg, Marc J.
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The lethal and nonlethal impacts of predators in marine systems are often mediated via reciprocal detection of waterborne chemical signals between consumers and prey. Local flow environments can enhance or impair the chemoreception ability of consumers, but the effect of hydrodynamics on detection of predation risk by prey has not been investigated. Using clams as our model organism, we investigated two specific questions: (1) Can clams decrease their mortality by responding to predators? (2) Do fluid forces affect the ability of clams to detect approaching predators? Previous research has documented a decrease in clam feeding (pumping) in response to a neighboring predator. We determined the benefits of this behavior to survivorship by placing clams in the field with knobbed whelk or blue crab predators caged nearby and compared mortality between these clams and clams near a cage-only control. Significantly more clams survived in areas containing a caged predator, suggesting that predator-induced alterations in feeding reduce clam mortality in the field. We ascertained the effect of fluid forces on clam perception of predators in a laboratory flume by comparing the feeding (pumping) behavior of clams in response to crabs and whelks in flows of 3 and 11 cm/s. Clams pumped significantly less in the presence of predators, but their reaction to blue crabs diminished in the higher velocity flow, while their response to whelks remained constant in both flows. Thus, clam reactive distance to blue crabs was affected by fluid forces, but hydrodynamic effects on clam perceptive distance was predator specific. After predators were removed, clams exposed to whelks took significantly longer to resume feeding than those exposed to blue crabs. Our results suggest that prey perception of predators can be altered by physical forces. Prey detection of predators is the underlying mechanism for trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMIIs), and recent research has documented the importance of TMIIs to community structure. Since physical forces can influence prey perception, the prevalence of TMIIs in communities may, in part, be related to the sensory ability of prey, physical forces in the environment that impact sensory performance, and the type of predator detected.