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Biol Lett. 2010 August 23; 6(4): 449–452.
Published online 2010 February 17. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2009.1082
PMCID: PMC2936218

Notonecta exhibit threat-sensitive, predator-induced dispersal


Dispersal is a central process determining community structure in heterogeneous landscapes, and species interactions within habitats may be a major determinant of dispersal. Although the effects of species interactions on dispersal within habitats have been well studied, how species interactions affect the movement of individuals between habitats in a landscape has received less attention. We conducted two experiments to assess the extent to which predation risk affects dispersal from an aquatic habitat by a flight-capable semi-aquatic insect (Notonecta undulata). Exposure to non-lethal (caged) fish fed conspecifics increased dispersal rates in N. undulata. Moreover, dispersal rate was positively correlated with the level of risk imposed by the fish; the greater the number of notonectids consumed by the caged fish, the greater the dispersal rate from the habitat. These results suggest that risk within a habitat can affect dispersal among habitats in a landscape and thus affect community structure on a much greater scale than the direct effect of predation itself.

Keywords: predator–prey, Notonecta, dispersal, remote-control effects

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