, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 377-408
Date: 26 Oct 2011

The foraging ecology of larval and juvenile fishes

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Abstract

Knowledge of the foraging ecology of fishes is fundamental both to understanding the processes that function at the individual, population and community levels, and for the management and conservation of their populations and habitats. Furthermore, the factors that influence the acquisition and assimilation of food can have significant consequences for the condition, growth, survival and recruitment of fishes. The majority of marine and freshwater fish species are planktivorous at the onset of exogenous nutrition and have a limited ability to detect, capture, ingest and digest prey. Improvements in vision, development of fins and associated improvements in swimming performance, increases in gape size and development of the alimentary tract during ontogeny often lead to shifts in diet composition. Prey size, morphology, behaviour and abundance can all influence the prey selection of larval and juvenile fishes. Differences in feeding behaviour between fish species, individuals or during ontogeny can also be important, as can inter- and intraspecific interactions (competition, predation risk). Temporal (diel, seasonal, annual) and spatial (microhabitat, mesohabitat, macrohabitat, regional) variations in prey availability can have important implications for the prey selection, diet composition, growth, survival, condition and, ultimately, recruitment success of fishes. For fish populations to persist, habitat must be available in sufficient quality and quantity for the range of activities undertaken during all periods of development. Habitats that enhance the diversity, size ranges and abundance of zooplankton should ensure that sufficient food resources are available to larval and juvenile fishes.