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Linking piscivory to spatial–temporal distributions of pelagic prey fishes with a visual foraging model

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A visual foraging model (VFM) used light-dependent reaction distance and capture success functions to link observed prey fish abundance and distribution to predation rates and the foraging performance of piscivorous cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarki in Lake Washington (WA, U.S.A.). Total prey density did not correlate with predation potential estimated by the foraging model for cutthroat trout because prey were rarely distributed in optically favourable conditions for detection. Predictions of the depth-specific distribution and timing of cutthroat trout foraging were qualitatively similar to diel stomach fullness patterns observed in field samples. Nocturnal foraging accounted for 34–64% of all prey fish consumption in simulations for 2002 and 2003. Urban light contamination increased the access of nocturnally foraging cutthroat trout to vertically migrating prey fishes. These results suggest that VFMs are useful tools for converting observed prey fish density into predictions of predator consumptions and behavioural responses of predators to environmental change.

Keywords: foraging model; light pollution; predation risk; prey availability; sensory ecology; visual foraging

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, Seattle, Washington 98195, U.S.A.

Publication date: July 1, 2006


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