, Volume 76, Issue 2-4, pp 303-315

Ontogeny of feeding in two native and one alien fish species from the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia

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Abstract

Investigations into the feeding of the early stages of fishes can provide insights into processes influencing recruitment. In this study, we examined ontogenetic changes in morphology and feeding behaviour of two native Australian freshwater species, Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii peelii, and golden perch, Macquaria ambigua, and the alien species, common carp, Cyprinus carpio. Murray cod free embryos are large and well developed at the onset of feeding, whereas the other two species begin exogenous feeding much younger and are smaller and less-developed. Carp commence exogenous feeding 3 days earlier than golden perch, and show more advanced development of the eyes and ingestive apparatus. We conducted feeding experiments, presenting larvae of the three species with a standardised prey mix (comprising equal numbers of small calanoid copepods, large calanoid copepods, small Daphnia, and large Daphnia). Larvae of most tested ages and species showed a preference for mid-sized prey (300–500 µm wide). This was true even when their gapes substantially exceeded the largest prey offered. Daphnia were consumed more than similar-sized copepods. The results of this study suggest that survival through their larval period will be threatened in all three species if catchable prey <500 µm in width are not available throughout such time. They also suggest that interspecific competition for prey may occur, especially when larvae are very young. The precocious development of structures involved in feeding and the extended transition from endogenous to exogenous feeding of early carp larvae are likely to have contributed to the success of this species since its introduction to Australia.