Fish - Shrimp Interactions


Implications of a fluctuating fish predator guild on behavior, distribution, and abundance of a shared prey species: the grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Vol. 293, Issue. 1, pp. 23-40, 2003

Jana L. D. Davis, William J. Metcalfe and Anson H. Hines

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, PO Box 28, Edgewater, MD 21037, USA


In some systems, the identity of a prey species' dominant predator(s) may not be constant over time. In cases in which a prey species exhibits different responses to various predator species, such changes in predator identity may have population-wide consequences. Our goals were to determine (1) whether mortality of and refuge use by the grass shrimp, Palaemonetes pugio , were predator-specific, and (2) how effects of prey size and habitat interacted with predator type. Striped bass ( Morone saxatilis ) exerted twice as much predation pressure as mummichog ( Fundulus heteroclitus ), although not equally as great on large (female) and small (male) shrimp. Mummichog, which fed preferentially on large shrimp, forced a partitioning of habitat between the two shrimp size classes. In contrast, large and small shrimp occupied similar habitats when subjected to striped bass, which fed on both size classes equally. Refuge use of grass shrimp depended on predator type. In the presence of mummichog, which occupied shallower depths in the water column than striped bass, shrimp stayed deep and close to structural habitat. Striped bass, which were deeper, caused shrimp to move high in the water column away from structural habitat. When both predators were present, shrimp distribution was similar to that when only striped bass were present, striped bass predation rate was enhanced, and overall mortality was higher than with either predator alone. Results suggest that at times when mummichogs are the dominant predators, large (female) shrimp experience higher predation than small (male) shrimp and are physically separated from their potential mates. When striped bass are more abundant, male and female shrimp may share a similar, shallow, less structure-oriented distribution and be subjected to higher mortality. When both predators are present, mortality rates may be higher still. This predator-, size-, and habitat-specificity of grass shrimp behavior suggests significant population and distribution consequences of fluctuating predator guilds and fluctuating cover of structural habitats in the field.

Author Keywords: Refuge; Predator-prey interactions; Morone saxatilis ; Fundulus heteroclitus