Effects of ambient acidity on chemosensory learning: An example of an environmental constraint on acquired predator recognition in wild juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

A. O.H.C. Leduc*, E. Roh, C. Breau, G. E. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


In many prey fish species, learning the identity of novel predators may be facilitated when novel predator cues and an aversive stimulus are presented together. Damage-released chemical alarm cues are typically released from the skin of prey individuals following mechanical damage and are known to mediate the learned recognition of novel predators. While such chemically mediated acquired predator recognition can provide increased survival benefits to prey, environmental constraints impeding learning may exist. For example, in several fish species the ability to detect chemical alarm cues is impaired in under acidic conditions and as such, inhibits this chemically mediated learning. In this experiment, we studied in two streams of different mean acidity level (pH c. 6.0 and 7.0), to assess if wild juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) had the ability to acquire the recognition of a novel lemon essence odour when paired with conspecific chemical alarm cues. Our results demonstrate that under acidic conditions, no learned recognition of the novel odour occurred. In neutral conditions, however, salmon recognised the novel odour as a predation threat. This result suggests that ambient acidity creates an environmental constraint on chemically mediated learned recognition of a novel cue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-394
Number of pages10
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Acidity
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Chemical alarm cues
  • Learning
  • Risk assessment
  • Stream ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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