|Institution:||University of Saskatchewan|
|Keywords:||Cuttlefish; Anti-predator behaviour; Embryonic experience|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/10388/ETD-2014-12-1854|
Since neonates are often the age-class most susceptible to predation, there should be strong selective pressure on prey for the early development of successful antipredator behaviour. The ability to assess predation risk as early as the embryonic stages may increase an individual’s survival, as it would allow young individuals to be better adapted to current predation risk, since present conditions are often a good short-term indicator of future conditions. I exposed embryonic cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) to the odour of a predator and tested both the responses of the embryos to this stimulus, and the latent effects of both long (approximately 3 weeks)- and short (a few days)- exposure on the behaviour of newly-hatched juveniles, in particular the efficiency of cryptic behaviour on uniform and sandy substrates. Exposure to novel odours, whether they were predators or non-predators, increased the ventilation rate of embryos. This may be adaptive, because it helps an individual survive first encounters with unknown potential dangers before they have opportunity to collect information about a novel stimulus. Long-term exposure to predator odour increased the camouflage efficiencies of juveniles on uniform substrates. On sandy substrate, the exposure did not affect camouflage, but increased the extent of sand digging behaviour. Juveniles were also larger in size at hatching when exposed to predators compared to those that were not. These results were not seen in individuals with only short-term exposure to predator. Short-term exposure also had no effect on camouflage efficiencies on uniform or sandy substrates, or on sand digging behaviour. The results of my thesis indicate that high predation risk during embryonic development induces behavioural and morphological changes in camouflage expression and body size in cuttlefish hatchlings. The behavioural plasticity may provide survival benefits for newly hatched individuals, but may come at a cost in terms of body size. Such behavioural and morphological plasticity may have an impact on predator-prey dynamics and organization of communities.