Learning to recognize novel predators under weakly acidic conditions: The effects of reduced pH on acquired predator recognition by juvenile rainbow trout

Antoine O.H.C. Leduc, Maud C.O. Ferrari, Jocelyn M. Kelly, Grant E. Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have demonstrated that under weakly acidic conditions (pH 6.0), many prey fishes, including juvenile rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss), do not exhibit overt antipredator responses to conspecific chemical alarm cues. In laboratory trials, we investigated the potential effects of reduced pH on the ability of hatchery reared, predator naïve juvenile rainbow trout to acquire the recognition of a novel predator (yellow perch, Perca flavenscens). Initially, we exposed trout to the odour of a predatory yellow perch, buffered to pH 6.0 (weakly acidic) or pH 7.0 (neutral) paired with conspecific skin extracts (also buffered to pH 6.0 or 7.0) or a distilled water control. Juvenile trout exhibited significant increase in antipredator behaviour when exposed to neutral skin extract (pH 7.0). When retested 48 hours later to perch odour alone (pH 7.0), only trout initially conditioned with neutral skin extracts (pairs with either neutral or acidic perch odour) exhibited a learned recognition of perch odour as a predator risk. Those initially exposed to weakly acidic skin extract or the distilled water control did not show a learned response to predator odour. These results demonstrate that the ability to acquire the recognition of novel predators is impaired under weakly acidic conditions, as would occur in natural waterways affected by acidic precipitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Acid rain
  • Acquired predator recognition
  • Antipredator behaviour
  • Chemical alarm cues
  • Rainbow trout
  • Salmonids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry

Cite this