Title

Vulnerability of marine forage fishes to piscivory: effects of prey behavior on susceptibility to attack and capture

Publication Date

2003

Journal or Book Title

JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MARINE BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY

Abstract

We conducted a series of size-structured laboratory experiments to quantify and compare the susceptibility of several estuarine and marine forage fishes to attack and capture by piscivorous predators. Size-dependent estimates of capture success, handling time, and prey profitability were generated from single-species experiments offering bay anchovy, Atlantic menhaden, Atlantic silverside, and age-0 striped bass to piscivores. Bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden were most susceptible to capture and yielded high profitability compared to Atlantic silverside and age-0 striped bass prey. Variation in capture success among forage species was particularly influential in generating disparate profitability functions. Although morphological differences among forage species contributed to variation in susceptibility to predation, behavioral analyses indicated that variable reaction distances to approaching predators and activity levels of prey may explain a large fraction of the observed differences in susceptibility. When several forage species were offered to predators simultaneously in larger enclosures, mortality was highest and occurred earlier for bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden compared to other prey, which points to the strong influence of predator capture success on overall forage fish vulnerability. Our results demonstrate species-specific differences among forage fishes in the ability to avoid attack and capture by piscivores, and we conclude that the expression of antipredator behaviors contributes significantly to variation in forage species vulnerability.

DOI

10.1016/S0022-0981(03)00260-0

Volume

294

Issue

1

Pages

41-59

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