Estimating piscine prey size from partial remains: Testing for shifts in foraging mode by juvenile bluefish

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Environmental Biology Of Fishes


Knowledge of prey sizes consumed by a predator aids in the estimation of predation impact. Young-of-the-year bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix, attack their prey tail-first and often bite their prey in half; this poses a unique problem in determining prey sizes from stomach content analysis. We developed a series of linear regressions to estimate original prey lengths from measurements of eye diameter and caudal peduncle depth for striped bass, Morone saxatilis, bay anchovy, Anchoa mitchilli, American shad, Alosa sapidissima, blueback herring, Alosa aestivalis, Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia, and white perch, Morone americana. We then used these regressions to estimate original prey sizes from pieces of prey found in stomachs of bluefish collected in the Hudson River estuary from 1990–1993. Lengths of prey that were swallowed whole were compared to estimated lengths of prey that were consumed in pieces. Lengths of prey that were consumed in pieces were larger than prey that were consumed whole. We determined the prey length/predator length ratio at which bluefish began shifting from swallowing their prey whole to partial consumption. Shifting occurred at a ratio of approximately 0.35 irrespective of prey species, suggesting that prey length plays an important role in predator foraging decisions and may contribute to gape limitations. Shifts in foraging mode effectively reduce gape limitation and allow bluefish to consume larger prey sizes which may increase their effect on prey populations.








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