Patch selection behaviour in the presence of environmental constraints

Campbell, Jennifer Anne (2015) Patch selection behaviour in the presence of environmental constraints. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Habitat selection behaviour is the primary way in which organisms are able to regulate encounters with their biotic and abiotic environment. An individual chooses an area that best meets their current needs, particularly regarding safety and the presence of high-quality food. Several physical aspects of the environment can make it difficult for individuals to assess the relative habitat quality of the areas available, thus leading to suboptimal habitat selection. In this thesis, I investigated the way in which two aquatic habitat constraints - obstacles to movement between patches and turbidity - affected the ability of fish to make optimal patch choices, using threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus as a model species. Laboratory experiments showed that when movement between patches was hindered by increasingly challenging obstacles, groups of stickleback did not move as freely between the patches, and thus had greater deviations from the predictions of the Ideal Free Distribution (IFD). I also demonstrated that, unlike other species, stickleback do not use turbid environments to avoid predator detection. A trend was seen towards avoidance of a turbid food patch regardless of risk level, although this was not statistically significant. As expected, the stickleback avoided feeding in the presence of a predator regardless of water clarity. Overall, I found that both turbidity and movement constraints can have significant impacts on patch use and distribution in the threespine stickleback. Both turbidity and ease of transit will impact the distribution of ecologically important species like the threespine stickleback, and therefore should be taken into account when studying habitat selection in the wild.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 11665
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: Ideal Free Distribution, habitat selection, turbidity, travel costs, prey behaviour
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: October 2015
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Habitat selection; Sticklebacks--Behavior; Sticklebacks--Effect of turbidity on; Sticklebacks--Geographical distribution

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