Predation Cues Influence Metabolic Rate and Sensitivity to Other Chemical Stressors in Fathead Minnows (Pimephales promelas) and Daphnia pulex

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The response of aquatic species to contaminants is often context dependent as illustrated by the influence that predation cues can have on the toxicity of some chemicals. We sought to gain additional insight into this interaction by examining how predation cues (alarm cue and fish kairomone) influence metabolic rate and the acute toxicity of sodium chloride and cadmium to fathead minnow larvae (Pimephales promelas) and sodium chloride to Daphnia pulex neonates. Consistent with a “flight or fight” response, the metabolic rate of fish larvae was elevated in the presence of alarm cue and growth of the minnows was also significantly reduced when exposed to alarm cue. The average 48-h LC50 for fathead minnows exposed to sodium chloride was significantly lower in the presence of alarm cue and kairomone combined as compared to tests with the salt alone. Analysis of the dose and survival response indicated alarm cue increased sensitivity of the fish to mid-range salt concentrations in particular. These results suggest an energetic cost of exposure to predation cues that resulted in enhanced toxicity of NaCl. Exposure to kairomone alone had no significant effect on salt toxicity to the minnows, which could be related to a lack of previous exposure to that cue. The acute toxicity of cadmium to the fish larvae was also not affected by the presence of predation cues which could be due to a metal-induced sensory system dysfunction or reduced bioavailability of the metal due to organic exudates from the predation cues. In contrast to the fathead minnow results, the metabolic rate of D. pulex and toxicity of NaCl to the daphnids were reduced in the presence of certain predator kairomones. This suggests an anti-predator response that enhanced tolerance to the salt. This study illustrates that the effect of predation cues on toxicity of aquatic contaminants can vary significantly based on the prey species, type of cue, and chemical stressor.