Comparing the non-lethal and lethal effects of predation risk ‬on goldfish anti-predatory behavior

Merav Wacht Katz, Zvika Abramsky, Burt P. Kotler, Michael L. Rosenzweig, Ofir Altstein, Inbar Roth, Constantine Klimovitsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Little egrets (Egretta garzetta) and common goldfish (Carassius auratus) interacted in experimental theaters that challenge them with a behavioral game. We studied the behavioral tactics of both players. The experimental theaters consist of three equally spaced pools, each with a shelter in its center. The fish can take shelter in a safe but foodless habitat, or swim exposed in the open that contains food. The egrets can move among the pools to catch the exposed fish. We investigated the importance of non-lethal effects versus lethal effects on predator–prey interactions. We created a variance in predation pressure by keeping the number of egrets fixed but varying the number of pools of the experimental theater between 1 and 3 pools. In all treatments, even when the egret was present, individual goldfish emerged from protected cover occasionally, exposing at least their heads and sometimes their entire bodies in apparent disregard for the possibly lethal consequences. We assumed that this behavior stems from the fish's constant need to collect information about its surroundings. The fish responded appropriately to the variations in predation pressure by changing their activity level outside the cover, i.e., the fish drastically and significantly reduced their exposure outside the cover, as well as the rate of peeping, as predation pressure increased. The results demonstrate the importance role of non-lethal effects, and how they drive the behavior of prey in response to predation risk, which in turn, drives the action of the predator in an asymmetric two-player game of stealth and fear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-127
Number of pages7
JournalIsrael Journal of Ecology and Evolution
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • anti-predatory behavior
  • food patches
  • foraging games
  • lethal and non-lethal effects
  • optimal foraging
  • predation risk
  • predator–prey interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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