Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 441–453 | Cite as

Foraging efficiency of juvenile bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, among different vegetated habitats

  • Sherry L. Harrel
  • Eric D. Dibble


Optimal foraging theory is devoted to understanding how organisms maximize net energy gain. However, both the theory and empirical studies lack critical components, such as effects of environmental variables across habitats. We addressed the hypothesis that energetic returns of juvenile bluegill are affected by environmental variables characteristic of the vegetated habitats. Predicted optimal diet breadths were calculated and compared to prey items eaten by juvenile bluegill to determine if bluegill were foraging to maximize energetic gain. Differences in habitat profitability among vegetated sites were determined by comparing predictions of maximized energetic return rates (cal s-1) with prey contents of bluegill stomachs. Sizes of most prey items eaten by juvenile bluegill throughout the vegetated sites were smaller than the predicted optimal diet breadths. However, inclusion of smaller prey items in the diet did not seem to affect rate of energetic gain. Energetic return rates were maximized at the 1.5 and 2 mm prey size classes and declined only slightly with inclusion of smaller prey sizes. Predicted energetic return rates and average mass in bluegill stomachs were related negatively. Average mass in bluegill stomachs also was associated negatively with Elodea canadensis stem densities and percent of light transfer, suggesting that foraging efficiency of bluegill decreased as plant density and percent of light increased. Results of our research indicate that maximization of energetic return rates is dependent upon availability of prey sizes that contribute to optimal foraging. Thus, determination of those habitats that provide the highest availability of benthic invertebrate prey with the least interference by stems is critical. Enhanced foraging capabilities can promote recruitment, faster growth, better body condition and survival.

optimal foraging diet breadth energetic gain habitat profitability aquatic plants underwater videography 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sherry L. Harrel
    • 1
  • Eric D. Dibble
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Of Wildlife And FisheriesMississippi State UniversityU.S.A.

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