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Turbidity influences individual and group level responses to predation in guppies, Poecilia reticulata

Kimbell, Helen S.; Morrell, Lesley


Helen S. Kimbell


© 2015 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Increasing turbidity (either sedimentary or organic) from anthropogenic sources has significant negative impacts on aquatic fauna, both directly and indirectly by disrupting behaviour. In particular, antipredator responses of individuals are reduced, which has been attributed to a reduced perception of risk. Here, we explored the effect of turbidity on shoaling behaviour, which is known to carry important antipredator benefits, predicting that fish in turbid water should show reduced shoal cohesion (increased interindividual distances) and reduced responses to a simulated predatory threat. We explored both the individual and shoal level responses to a predation threat at four different levels of turbidity. At the shoal level, we found that shoals were less cohesive in more turbid water, but that there was no effect of turbidity on shoal level response to the predation threat. At an individual level, guppies in turbid water were more likely to freeze (rather than dart then freeze), and those that darted moved more slowly and over a shorter distance than those in clear water. Fish in turbid water also took longer to recover from a predation threat than fish in clear water. We suggest that because fish in turbid water behaved in a manner more similar to that expected from lone fish than to those in a shoal, the loss of visual contact between individuals in turbid water explains the change in behaviour, rather than a reduced perception of individual risk as is widely supposed. We suggest that turbidity could lead to a reduced collective response to predators and a loss of the protective benefits of shoaling.


Kimbell, H. S., & Morrell, L. (2015). Turbidity influences individual and group level responses to predation in guppies, Poecilia reticulata. Animal behaviour, 103(May), 179-185.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 26, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 7, 2015
Publication Date 2015-05
Deposit Date Mar 19, 2015
Publicly Available Date Apr 7, 2015
Journal Animal behaviour
Print ISSN 0003-3472
Electronic ISSN 1095-8282
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Issue May
Pages 179-185
Keywords Collective behaviour; Poecilia reticulata; Predation; Turbidity; Vision
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article which has been published in: Animal behaviour, 2015, v.x, issue 103.


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