Hatchery-reared juvenile, <25-cm TL (total length), razorback suckers appeared curious and showed no sign of predator avoidance when initially placed with large (>45-cm TL) flathead catfish. Predator-nai??ve juveniles (20- to 25-cm TL) exhibited no discernable preference when provided areas with and without (52 percent and 48 percent, n = 16 observations; 46 percent and 54 percent, n = 20 observations) large flathead catfish. However, once predation occurred, use of predator-free areas nearly doubled in two trials (36 percent and 64 percent, n = 50 observations; 33 percent and 67 percent, n = 12 observations). A more stringent test examining available area indicated predator-savvy razorback suckers used predator-free areas (88 percent, n = 21) illustrating predator avoidance was a learned behavior.
Razorback suckers exercised (treatment) in water current (<0.3 m/s) for 10 weeks exhibited greater swimming stamina than unexercised, control fish. When exercised and unexercised razorback suckers were placed together with large predators in 2006, treatment fish had significantly fewer (n = 9, z = 1.69, p = 0.046) mortalities than control fish, suggesting increased stamina improved predator escape skills. Predator/prey tests comparing razorback suckers that had been previously exposed to a predation event with control fish, found treatment fish also had significantly fewer losses than predator-nai??ve fish (p = 0.017). Similar tests exposing predator-savvy and predator-nai??ve bonytail with largemouth bass showed a similar trend; predator-savvy bonytail suffered 38 percent fewer losses than control fish. However, there was not a statistically significant difference between the test groups (p = 0.143) due to small sample size. All exercise and predator exposure trials increased the survival rate of razorback sucker and bonytail compared to untreated counterparts.
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Preliminary Testing of the Role of Exercise and Predator Recognition for Bonytail and Razorback Sucker