Pikeperch Sander lucioperca trapped between niches: foraging performance and prey selection in a piscivore on a planktivore diet
The foraging behaviour of planktivorous pikeperch Sander lucioperca during their first growing season was analysed. Field data showed that S. lucioperca feed on extremely rare prey at the end of the summer, suggesting the presence of a bottleneck. In experiments, foraging ability of planktivorous S. lucioperca was determined when fish were feeding on different prey types (Daphnia magna or Chaoborus spp.) and sizes (D. magna of lengths 1 or 2·5 mm) when they occurred alone. From these results, the minimum density requirement of each prey type was analysed. The energy gain for three different foraging strategies was estimated; a specialized diet based on either large D. magna or Chaoborus spp. or a generalist diet combining both prey types. Prey value estimates showed that Chaoborus spp. should be the preferred prey, assuming an energy maximizing principle. In prey choice experiments, S. lucioperca largely followed this principle, including D. magna in the diet only when the density of the Chaoborus spp. was below a threshold value. Splitting the foraging bout into different sequences, however, resulted in a somewhat different pattern. During an initial phase, S. lucioperca captured both prey as encountered and then switched to Chaoborus spp. if prey density was above the threshold level. The prey selection observed was mainly explained by sampling behaviour and incomplete information about environmental quality, whereas satiation only had marginal effects. It was concluded that the observed diet based on rare prey items was in accordance with an optimal foraging strategy and may generate positive growth in the absence of prey fish in suitable sizes.