Escaping from multiple visual threats: Modulation of escape responses in Pacific staghorn sculpin (Leptocottus armatus)

Hibiki Kimura*, Tilo Pfalzgraff, Marie Levet, Yuuki Kawabata, John F. Steffensen, Jacob L Johansen, Paolo Domenici

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Fish perform rapid escape responses to avoid sudden predatory attacks. During escape responses, fish bend their bodies into a C-shape and quickly turn away from the predator and accelerate. The escape trajectory is determined by the initial turn (Stage 1) and a contralateral bend (Stage 2). Previous studies have used a single threat or model predator as a stimulus. In nature, however, multiple predators may attack from different directions simultaneously or in close succession. It is unknown whether fish are able to change the course of their escape response when startled by multiple stimuli at various time intervals. Pacific staghorn sculpin (Leptocottus armatus) were startled with a left and right visual stimulus in close succession. By varying the timing of the second stimulus, we were able to determine when and how a second stimulus could affect the escape response direction. Four treatments were used: a single visual stimulus (control); or two stimuli coming from opposite sides separated by a 0 ms (simultaneous treatment); a 33 ms; or a 83 ms time interval. The 33 ms and 83 ms time intervals were chosen to occur shortly before and after a predicted 60 ms visual escape latency (i.e. during Stage 1). The 0 ms and 33 ms treatments influenced both the escape trajectory and the Stage 1 turning angle, compared to a single stimulation, whereas the 83 ms treatment had no effect on the escape trajectory. We conclude that Pacific staghorn sculpin can modulate their escape trajectory only between stimulation and the onset of the response, but that escape trajectory cannot be modulated after the body motion has started.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb243328.
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • C-start
  • Escape trajectory
  • Fast start
  • Sensory feedback
  • Looming stimuli
  • Fish escape response
  • Predation
  • Visual stimuli


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