Tiny fish grows bigger 'eye' on rear fins to survive predator attacks

Washington, August 20 : A new research has found that small prey fish are capable of growing a bigger 'eye' on their rear fins to distract their predators and thereby dramatically boosting their chances of survival.

Researchers from Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) found that when constantly threatened with being eaten, small damsel fish not only grow a larger false 'eye spot' near their tail - but also reduce the size of their real eyes.

Oona Lonnstedt, a graduate student at CoECRS and James Cook University, said that the result is a fish that looks like it is heading in the opposite direction - potentially confusing predatory fish with plans to gobble them up.

She said that it is an amazing feat of cunning for a tiny fish.

Lonnstedt said that young damsel fish are pale yellow in colour and have this distinctive black circular 'eye' marking towards their tail, which fades as they mature.

She explained that they found that when young damsel fish were placed in a specially built tank where they were able to see and smell predatory fish without being attacked, they began growing a bigger eye spot, and their real eye became relatively smaller, compared with damsels exposed only to herbivorous fish, or isolated ones.

When the researchers investigated what happens in nature on a coral reef with lots of predators, they found that juvenile damsel fish with enlarged eye spots had an amazing five times the survival rate of fish with a normal-sized spot.

The team also noted that when placed in proximity to a predator the young damsel fish also adopted other protective behaviours and features, which included reducing activity levels, taking refuge more often and developing a chunkier body shape less easy for a predator to swallow.

The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

--ANI (Posted on 20-08-2013)

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