Predator regime influences innate anti-predator behaviour in the freshwater gastropod Lymnaea stagnalis

Sarah Dalesman*, Simon D. Rundle, Peter A. Cotton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (SciVal)


1. Predation incurs high fitness costs in aquatic organisms either through direct consumption or through avoidance responses that reduce time for activities such as feeding and reproduction. Hence, avoidance responses of aquatic organisms should vary to match closely the predation threat in their environment. 2. The freshwater gastropod Lymnaea stagnalis occurs in a variety of environments which vary in the presence or absence of predatory fish. We used naïve snails reared from six populations of this species experiencing different predator regimes (three co-occurring with molluscivorous fish and three without) to assess whether populations differed in the type and degree of their avoidance behaviours. Innate behavioural responses to four treatments (control, conspecific alarm cues, fish kairomones and fish kairomones paired with alarm cue) were compared in laboratory trials. 3. The primary anti-predator behaviour of L. stagnalis in response to fish kairomones was to crawl out of the water rather than seek refuge under water. This response was strongest when fish kairomones were paired with alarm cues, and varied depending on population origin; snails reared from populations co-occurring with predatory fish showed a stronger response than those raised from populations not experiencing such predators. In addition, populations co-occurring with predatory fish responded to the fish kairomones presented alone. 4. Our findings suggest that the degree of innate anti-predator behaviour shown by L. stagnalis, in terms of both the level of risk to which it responds and the degree of response, varies depending on the predator regime experienced by field populations. Together with previous work on cue association, this demonstrates that this gastropod is able to match its avoidance behaviour very closely to short and long term predation threats within its habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2134-2140
Number of pages7
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
Early online date20 Jul 2007
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2007


  • Alarm cue
  • Chemical communication
  • Gastropod
  • Induced defences
  • Local adaptation


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