Effects of acid rainfall on juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) antipredator behaviour: Loss of chemical alarm function and potential survival consequences during predation

Antoine O.H.C. Leduc, Ellie Roh, Grant E. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Many organisms rely on chemosensory cues to mediate predation risks. Recent studies have demonstrated impaired chemosensory detection ability under weak acidification. Because rainfall may lead to episodic acidification of surface water, we assessed the effects of acid rain on chemosensory alarm functions. Under natural conditions, we quantified alarm behaviour of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) exposed to conspecific chemical alarm cues before and following rainfall. Before rainfall, salmon were capable of an alarm response in the study streams. After rainfall, salmon from Devil's Brook did not respond to the alarm cues whereas the detection of salmon from Catamaran Brook (a comparable stream having higher acid neutralising capacity) was maintained. To relate these findings to predatorprey encounters, we performed a second experiment where we staged encounters between prey (rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) and predator (largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides) exposed to acidified and unacidified rainbow trout chemical alarm cues. Trout exposed to acidified alarm cues survived for a significantly shorter amount of time than trout exposed to unacidified alarm cues, whereas no difference in overall predator behaviour was observed. Our results suggest that episodic acidification in small nursery streams may disrupt the chemical information mediated by the chemical alarm cues that can translate into higher survival costs for prey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1230
Number of pages8
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Acid rain precipitation
  • Chemical messengers
  • Predator
  • Prey interaction
  • Risk assessment
  • Salmonid ecology
  • Stream ecology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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