Research Data

Data for: McCormick MI, Ferrari MCO, Fakan E, Barry RP, Chivers DP (2018) Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats


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Data for: McCormick MI, Ferrari MCO, Fakan E, Barry RP, Chivers DP (2018) Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats
Date Record Created
Date Record Modified
Date Coverage
2017-11-01 to 2017-12-15
Time Period
(no information)
Geospatial Location
  • Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
  1. Type: full

    Data from two field experiments that together represent one manuscript (submitted 2018)

    Abstract [Related Publication]: Habitat degradation can alter community processes by changing the cues available to assess risk. Modifications to the composition of the benthic environment have been found to alter the chemical background through which chemical information passes. The change in coral reefs from live coral to algal-dominated seascapes has been shown to prevent some fish species from using chemical alarm cues to inform their risk of predation, although not all species are affected. Here, we examined whether chemically-mediated dietary information from predators can be used to label novel predators as a threat, whether their efficacy is modified by habitat degradation, and whether cues from prey species not affected by the change in chemistry associated with habitat degradation can be used to mitigate the problem. Laboratory and field experiments showed that Ambon damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis, were able to learn the identity of individual novel predators from a cocktail of 3 predators using digestive products when the predators had been fed conspecifics of the prey species in the presence of water that had passed over live hard coral. This allows the labelling of predator identity to be greatly extended beyond the immediate capture and ingestion event. Fish that had the same learning opportunity in degraded water took more risk and died faster on habitat patches in the field. Ambon damselfish respond to chemical alarm cues from closely-related heterospecific P. nagasakiensis, both in live or degraded water, yet we failed to find behavioural evidence that they can use the congeneric diet odours to label predators. However, we did find a modest survival benefit under natural conditions, suggesting some limited learning occurred. Further work is necessary to investigate the role of chemical information redundancy among community members, as they provide insights into potential resilience mechanisms available to individuals facing environmental change.

    Description [Key included in dataset]: Juvenile Pomacentrus amboinensis exposed to water from tanks that contained faeces of predators (combined moonwrasse, dottybacks, lizardfish predators) that has been fed P.amboinensis or P.nagakakiensis (congeneric) in water that has passed over Live or Dead-degraded Pocillopora damicornis hard coral in a header tank. Data is the behaviour and space use of lab conditioned P.amboinensis on patch reefs (Exp 2), and how these fish then respond to the odour of dottybacks (fed squid to avoid diet cues) that were delivered via a tube and syringe in the field (Exp 1).

    Data consists of a spreadsheet with three sheets: a description and data for each of the two experiments; and a short video.

    The full methodology is available in the publication shown in the Related Publications link below.

  2. Type: note

    This dataset is available as a spreadsheet in MS Excel (.xlsx) and Open Document formats (.ods) and a QuickTime video in MOV (.mov) format.

Related Publications
  1. McCormick, Mark, Ferrari, Maud C. O., Fakan, Eric P., Barry, Randall P., and Chivers, Douglas P. (2019) Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats. Animal Behaviour, 152. pp. 19-28.
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Related Data
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  1. Aggregated by: Prof Mark McCormick , , ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Marine Biology & Aquaculture
Primary Contact
Prof Mark McCormick,
(no information)
  1. Douglas Chivers, University of Saskatchewan
  2. Maud Ferrari, University of Saskatchewan
  3. Eric Fakan, James Cook University
Fields of Research
  1. 060201 - Behavioural Ecology (060201)
Socio-Economic Objective
  1. 960310 - Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. Social Impacts) (960310)
  2. 960808 - Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity (960808)
  1. habitat degradation
  2. coral reef fish
  3. predator-prey
  4. risk assessment
  5. chemical alarm cue
  6. coral bleaching
  7. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Research Activity
(no information)
Research Themes
Tropical Ecosystems, Conservation and Climate Change
CC BY-NC 4.0: Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International
License - Other
(no information)
Access Rights/Conditions
Open access. If the data is not freely accessible via the link provided, please contact the nominated data manager or for assistance.
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Data Location
Online Locations
  1. Video of Patch and MIM observering with cue (Data File, Public)
  2. McCormick_et_al_Diet_cues_for_upload.xlsx (Data File, Public)
  3. McCormick_et_al_Diet_cues_for_upload.ods (Data File, Public)
Stored At
(no information)
McCormick, M. (2018). Data for: McCormick MI, Ferrari MCO, Fakan E, Barry RP, Chivers DP (submitted 2018) Diet cues and their utility for risk assessment in degraded habitats. James Cook University. (dataset).
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):