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Which way to turn? Effect of direction of body asymmetry on turning and prey strike orientation in starry flounder Platichthys stellatus (Pallas) (Pleuronectidae)

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Starry flounder Platichthys stellatus, a rare polymorphic flatfish exhibiting a large-scale geographic cline in the frequency of right-eyed (dextral) and left-eyed (sinistral) morphs, was studied to investigate whether foraging behaviour (turning angle and prey strike orientation) differed between dextral and sinistral laboratory-raised juveniles. Platichthys stellatus foraging on brine shrimp Artemia sp. nauplii tended to strike dorsally at prey (‘left’ to an observer for dextral flounder and ‘right’ to an observer for sinistral flounder), although this effect was stronger for sinistral fish. This dorsal tendency also increased with body size. Non-strike behaviours (movements between strikes) were ventrally biased for both morphs. Maximum turn angles were larger for both morphs towards the dorsal side than the ventral side during prey strikes but were the same during non-strike behaviours. The positioning of the eyes of the juvenile starry flounder was skewed towards the dorsal midline rather than being symmetrically placed between dorsal and ventral margins on the eyed side of each fish. The migrating eyes of dextral fish, however, were significantly closer to the dorsal midline than in sinistral fish. This, in addition to the more dorsally oriented prey strikes in sinistral fish, suggests that the morphs are not simple behavioural mirror images of one another and therefore may differ ecologically.
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Keywords: Pleuronectiformes; asymmetry; flatfish; foraging behaviour; predation; vision

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Systematics & Evolution Group, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9, Canada and Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, British Columbia, V0R 1B0, Canada

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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