Researchers in StFX’s Marine Ecology Lab have had a paper published this week in Marine Biology, one of the leading journals dedicated to marine biological research.
The paper, which investigated a novel relationship between predators and prey, was a collaborative study co-authored by StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati, PhD student Julius Ellrich, master’s student Camilla Bertolini, both working in Dr. Scrosati’s lab, and Dr. Markus Molis, a professor from the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Germany.
“Predators have long been known to control prey populations through consumption of prey,” Dr. Scrosati says. “Using a marine predator-prey system from Nova Scotia's seashores, we did field experiments that revealed that a "fear factor" has strong effects on prey growth and reproduction.”
Basically, chemical cues that predators release to the seawater alert nearby prey that predation risk exists, he says. As prey attempt to minimize predation risk by limiting foraging activities, after one growing season prey are smaller and reproduce less.
“My lab is investigating other nontraditional mechanisms by which predators limit prey demography, including effects of predator cues on prey larval settlement behaviour. Overall, we are revealing that predators do much more than just eating prey.”
This study was funded through Dr. Scrosati’s NSERC Discovery Grant and through a graduate scholarship to Mr. Ellrich from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).