MEPS 367:239-248 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07590

Food limitation in larval fish: ontogenetic variation in feeding scope and its potential effect on survival

Alexander B. Bochdansky1,*, Peter Grønkjær2, Pierre Pepin3, William C. Leggett4

1Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Old Dominion University, 4600 Elkhorn Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Marine Ecology, University of Aarhus, Finlandsgade 14, 8200 Århus N, Denmark
3Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 80 White Hills Road, St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5X1, Canada
4Biology Department, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada

ABSTRACT: We used the radiated shanny Ulvaria subbifurcata as a model species to explore the relative gut fullness from hatch to metamorphosis of wild larvae, and compared these values with those of laboratory-reared larvae fed at maximum rates. Ingestion rates of most wild larvae were above starvation levels but below the maximum feeding levels of laboratory-reared larvae. Twenty-six percent of freshly-hatched wild larvae and 11% of large, pre-settlement wild larvae had insufficient food in their stomach to satisfy metabolic requirements. These results, taken on their own, are consistent with the much hypothesized increased foraging performance and survival of larger larvae relative to smaller conspecifics. However, feeding scope—defined as the difference between the minimum daily food required for maintenance and the maximum set by gut capacity—increased disproportionately with size during ontogeny. As a result, none of the larger (>500 µg C) wild larvae fed at saturating levels. We conclude that environmental factors operating to increase encounters between larvae and prey (e.g. prey densities, turbulence, patch encounter) and ingestion rates will affect smaller and larger larvae differently. As a consequence, increased encounter rates should lead to increased survival in smaller larvae, and (primarily) to increased growth in larger larvae.

KEY WORDS: Fish larvae · Feeding · Food-limitation

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Cite this article as: Bochdansky AB, Grønkjær P, Pepin P, Leggett WC (2008) Food limitation in larval fish: ontogenetic variation in feeding scope and its potential effect on survival. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 367:239-248

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