Is there a fish alarm pheromone? A wild study and critique

Anne Elizabeth Magurran, PW Irving, PA Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 1938 von Frisch reported that European minnows, Phoxinus phoxinus, displayed a marked fright reaction to conspecific skin extract. This was attributed to the presence of an alarm substance or Schreckstoff. Later, Schreckstoff was viewed as a classic example of an alarm pheromone. However, Williams (1964, 1992) argued that there are considerable problems in explaining the evolution of an alarm pheromone of this type, and, despite being the focus of extensive research, there have been few attempts to examine the function of Schreckstoff under natural conditions. We show that, contrary to expectation, wild European minnows fail to modify their behaviour or leave the area when exposed to skin extract. These results indicate that the minnow fright reaction is context-dependent and cast further doubt on the hypothesis that Schreckstoff is an alarm pheromone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1551-1556
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
VolumeB263
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 1996

Keywords

  • MINNOWS PIMEPHALES-PROMELAS
  • MALE FATHEAD MINNOWS
  • PIKE ESOX-LUCIUS
  • CULAEA-INCONSTANS
  • PHOXINUS-PHOXINUS
  • SUBSTANCE CELLS
  • NATURAL HABITAT
  • EUROPEAN MINNOW
  • SKIN EXTRACT
  • AVOIDANCE

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