What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Wary? Effect of Repeated Culling on the Behaviour of an Invasive Predator

Researchers in the Bahamas found that lionfish on culled reefs altered their behavior. They were less active and hid deeper during the day, when culling took place. This led them to hunt more often during dawn and dusk, which is also when their prey are more active. Researchers are not sure whether this shift in behavior is learned (lionfish have learned to perceive the threat of divers hunting for them) or evolutionary (the bold lionfish are being culled, leaving the shy and more hidden ones). This has management implications because if they are learning to hide it is important to cull them at longer intervals, so that they ‘forget’ their fear of divers. If their behavior is evolutionary, and the more bold lionfish are being hunted and killed, this could have positive benefits for conservation efforts. The remaining population would have a lower fitness because shyer predators capture fewer prey.

Author: Cote, I.S., E.S. Darling, L. Malpica-Cruz, N.S. Smith, S.J. Green, J. Curtis-Quick, and C. Layman
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(4): e94248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094248

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