, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 146–151 | Cite as

Size specific predation by herons and its effect on the sex-ratio of natural populations of the mosquito fish Gambusia affinis baird and girard

  • Robert H. Britton
  • Michael E. Moser


Sex-ratios of Gambusia affinis populations in freshwater marshes in the Camargue (Rhône Delta), are highly biased in favour of males, whereas the sex-ratios in ditches are close to unity. Studies of the diet of free living birds and experimental studies on prey size selection in captivity show that the abnormal sex-ratios in marshes can be attributed to differential heron predation. Ditches are relatively free from predation. Mature female Gambusia are larger, and have an energy content 5–25 times greater than that of mature males. Handling times of Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) are only slightly longer for female Gambusia than males. Hence, females represent a much more profitable prey.

Analysis of nestling regurgitates show that Gambusia makes up a considerable proportion of the diet of four species of Camargue herons, and that the majority of Gambusia taken are females. Under experimental conditions, captive herons consume almost exclusively female fish, even when offered in ratios where they are heavily outnumbered by males.

The relevance of these results to optimal diet theory is discussed.


Mature Male Mature Female Prey Size Handling Time Size Selection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert H. Britton
    • 1
  • Michael E. Moser
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Station Biologique de la Tour du ValatArlesFrance
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK

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