What Do Damselfish Do When They are in Distress From Predators?

They attract other predators in hopes of escaping.

Written by
Damselfish emit chemicals when they are in distress from predators.
John Virata

Scientists with the Arc Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University have found that when damselfish are in the throes of getting eaten, they emit chemical distress calls that attract other predators in an effort to create competition and chaos between predators with the hopes that they can escape death.

“What happens is they release special cues from their skin in miniscule quantities that attract lots of other predators,” James Cook University Professor Mark McCormack said.

“What we have found, is that by attracting another predator to the site, it actually increases its likelihood of survival by 10 to 15 per cent.”

When the other predators arrive, they attempt to steal the captured fish and in the fight for control of the bounty, the damselfish can often escape predation for the day. McCormack says that as the original predator is chased by the other predator or predators, they often get scared and release the damselfish prey, giving the damselfish a swimming chance to survive. This finding, McCormack says, leads him to believe that fish are more sophisticated than they are given credit for.

Article Categories:
Fish · Lifestyle