Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Marine Ecology Lab presents at Annual Congress of the Ecological Society of America

August 22nd, 2017
StFX master’s student Sonja Ehlers is shown finishing the experimental setup on the Atlantic coast, completed with the other Marine Ecology Lab members.

Research findings on marine predators effects on prey, from work conducted by an undergraduate student, a master’s student, and a post-doctoral fellow in StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati’s Marine Ecology Lab, were shared during an oral presentation at the 102nd Annual Congress of the Ecological Society of America, held this year in Portland, Oregon. 

The presentation was co-authored by undergraduate student Zachary Sherker, M.Sc. student Sonja Ehlers, and post-doctoral fellow Julius Ellrich. Dr. Scrosati made the presentation on their behalf.

“They conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated that marine predators, intertidal dogwhelks, have non-consumptive effects on the demography and morphology of their prey, mussels,” he says. 

“Essentially, waterborne chemical cues from these predators alert mussel larvae and adults of predation risk. Mussels respond with attempts to limit such risk. On the one hand, the predator cues stimulate pelagic mussel larvae to settle elsewhere, thereby locally decreasing benthic mussel recruitment to avoid future predation risk. On the other hand, adult mussels thicken their shells at the expense of shell elongation, which confers mussels a higher resistance to predation by dogwhelks.”

Dr. Scrosati says a central aspect of these projects is that they combined field experiments in real habitats on Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast with laboratory experiments that focused on details about the responses observed in the field. 

“Therefore, these results are highly realistic and point to the strong effects that predators can have on prey populations even when the predators are not consuming the prey,” he says.

The PowerPoint presentation is published in full in the online journal F1000Research:


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