Generalists as sequential specialists: diets and prey switching in juvenile silver perch
- Cite this article as:
- Warburton, K., Retif, S. & Hume, D. Environmental Biology of Fishes (1998) 51: 445. doi:10.1023/A:1007489100809
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Diets of silver perch, Bidyanus bidyanus, in organically fertilised aquaculture ponds were dominated by chironomid larvae, Daphnia and calanoid copepods. Insects and crustaceans contributed approximately 80% and 20% by weight to the diet respectively. Classification of the stomach contents of individual fish revealed 8 diet groups, 4 of which were dominated by planktonic crustaceans and 4 by insects. Each diet group was strongly dominated by a different prey type. Fish from the same sample tended to belong to the same diet group and there was a non-random distribution of diet groups across ponds. Perch diets were influenced by the method of pond fertilisation (livestock effluent or pellet feed). Shifts in the representation of groups indicated that fish switched from one diet group to another over a 2–4 week period. The selection of planktonic prey by perch was related to prey densities in the ponds. Fish preferred Daphnia when these prey were common, but switched to calanoids and insects when Daphnia were scarce. A perfect rank correlation between the mean body size of planktonic prey and their contribution to the diet suggested that prey choice involved comparative decisions based on prey size. These findings indicate that, while classified as dietary generalists, silver perch exhibit consumption patterns which at the individual level are highly specialised at any given time. These patterns can be predicted, given information on prey densities in the environment.