Image: Damselfish.
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, October 29, 2015

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have found that fish release a chemical ‘distress call’ when caught by predators, dramatically boosting their chances of survival. Fish harbour a chemical substance in their skin that’s released upon injury.  It triggers fearful and escape behaviour in nearby fish, but until now scientists hadn’t identified the benefits to the sender. The researchers have now found the answer, discovering that the chemical cue attracts additional predators to the capture site. “Chemical alarm cues in fish seem to function in a similar way to the distress calls emitted by many birds and mammals following capture,” said Professor Mark McCormick from the Coral CoE. “When damselfish release their chemical alarm on a coral reef, lots of additional predators are attracted to the cue release area. More predators would seem to mean more trouble, but we discovered that additional predators interfere with the initial predation event, allowing the prey a greater chance to escape.”


Media issued by James Cook University.

Photo credit: 

Image courtesy: DBryant.