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Vulnerability of longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) to predation: The influence of relative prey size and behavior

Michelle Dana Staudinger, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Cephalopods provide forage to a wide range of predators in marine food-webs. Despite their ecological importance, a basic understanding of the mechanisms controlling predation risk and demand is lacking. This is true of one of the most common species of squid found in the northwest Atlantic, the longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii). In this dissertation, I address this shortcoming by investigating the role that size and behavior play in influencing squid’s vulnerability to predation. I used long-term food habits, population survey, and commercial landings data, to quantify size-based patterns of predation respective to 25 species of predators. Additionally, I estimated the amount of overlap between predatory consumption and the fishery catch for squid by size. I found that finfish and elasmobranchs generally consumed juvenile and sub-adult squid, while marine mammals primarily targeted adults. Consequently, marine mammals had the highest overlap with the fishing industry for squid size resources. Although large squid were not common in predator diets, predators did not appear to be gape-limited when feeding on squid. This suggested that other factors, including behavior, were important in shaping size-based patterns of predation. I used a laboratory-based approach to quantify attack and capture behaviors towards squid by two predators representing contrasting foraging tactics. Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) and summer flounder ( Paralichthys dentatus) were chosen as cruising and ambush predators, respectively. Patterns in attack rates suggested that size-selection on squid was constrained by passive processes rather than active choice in both predators. Size-dependent profitability functions were calculated by combining capture success rates, handling times, and relative prey mass, and determined that bluefish was the more efficient predator of squid. Lastly, I evaluated the occurrence and effectiveness of anti-predator responses used by squid in the presence of bluefish and flounder. Squid behavior depended on the type of predator present, and the survival value of primary and secondary defense behaviors differed during interactions with each predator. The results of this project are intended to improve the quality of management of squid and their predators by providing a better understanding of predator-prey interactions in the northwest Atlantic.

Subject Area

Wildlife Conservation|Wildlife Management|Aquatic sciences

Recommended Citation

Staudinger, Michelle Dana, "Vulnerability of longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) to predation: The influence of relative prey size and behavior" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3397748.