The food and feeding relationships of larval and 0+ year juvenile fishes in lowland rivers and connected waterbodies. II. Prey selection and the influence of gape
The relative importance of taxa- and size-specific prey selection, and the influence of gape on the prey consumed by the larvae and 0+ year juveniles of four fish species were investigated in ‘main river’, ‘marina’ and ‘pond’ macrohabitats in the lower River Trent, England. A general sequence of ontogenetic shifts in food consumption was reflected in the electivity indices of particular prey taxa, partly due to the restrictions imposed by the gape of 0+ year fishes. Certain taxa, however, were consistently selected over others, irrespective of size, suggesting that taxa-specific, as well as size-specific, prey characteristics may be important in the selection process. There were significant, positive relationships between maximum prey (zooplankton) length and maximum gape height for larvae, but not for 0+ year juveniles. The majority of fishes, however, consumed prey substantially smaller than the maximum theoretically possible inferred from their gape. The greater size ranges of zooplankton in connected waterbodies compared with main river channels provide suitable prey for a range of developmental steps and fish species, and may, thus, enhance recruitment success.
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