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Chemical alarm signals in wild Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)


Chemical alarm signals in wild Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Brown, Grant E. and Godin, Jean-Guy J. (1999) Chemical alarm signals in wild Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77 (4). pp. 562-570. ISSN 0008-4301

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-77-4-562


We investigated the presence and possible function of chemical alarm signals (alarm pheromones) in wild Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) using laboratory, trapping, and direct field observational methods. In laboratory experiments, female guppies from a population exposed to high predation significantly increased their shoaling, dashing, and freezing behaviours and significantly reduced area use when exposed to the skin extract of sympatric female guppies. When exposed to the skin extract of females from a low-predation population, female guppies from a high-predation population exhibited significant, though smaller, increases in antipredator behaviour. No significant differences in antipredator behaviours were noted when females were exposed to swordtail (Xiphophorus helleri) skin extract, which lacks any known alarm pheromone. We conducted two field experiments to confirm these laboratory results. In a trapping experiment, significantly more guppies were caught in funnel traps labelled with distilled water than in paired traps labelled with sympatric guppy skin extract. In a final experiment, a realistic model of a natural predator (pike cichlid, Crenicichla alta), paired with either sympatric guppy skin extract or distilled water, was presented to groups of free-ranging guppies in pools of a high-predation river. Significantly fewer guppies were observed within a 50-cm radius of the predator model and significantly fewer guppies inspected the model when it was paired with guppy skin extract versus distilled water. Taken together, our results strongly suggest the presence of a chemical alarm signal (alarm pheromone) in the Trinidadian guppy, establish the validity of laboratory and trapping studies in the investigation of chemical alarm signalling, and demonstrate that alarm pheromones may function to mediate predation risk under natural conditions in the guppy.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Biology
Item Type:Article
Authors:Brown, Grant E. and Godin, Jean-Guy J.
Journal or Publication:Canadian Journal of Zoology
Date:April 1999
  • Union College
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1139/cjz-77-4-562
ID Code:6731
Deposited By: Danielle Dennie
Deposited On:18 Jun 2010 18:26
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:29
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