Antipredator tactics: a kin-selection benefit for defensive spines in coral catfish?

Richard Shine*, Vinay Udyawer, Claire Goiran

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    24 Downloads (Pure)


    Morphological features that impair a predator's ability to consume a prey item may benefit individual prey; but what of features that prolong prey-handling but do not enhance prey survival? For example, a striped eel catfish Plotosus lineatus will be fatally envenomated if struck by its specialist predator, the greater sea snake Hydrophis major. Nonetheless, the catfish typically erects long, toxic pectoral and dorsal spines that increase prey-handling times for the snake by around eightfold. Because the catfish travel in swarms of closely-related individuals, the delay enforced by spines may enable the victim's swarm-mates to disperse before the snake is able to search for another meal. In keeping with that hypothesis, defensive spines tend to be longer in catfish from regions where the greater sea snake occurs, than from areas where the snake does not occur.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)240-247
    Number of pages8
    Issue number2
    Early online date23 Oct 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


    • antipredator
    • hydrophiine
    • marine
    • olive-headed sea snake
    • predator–prey


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