Fish Behaviour by Day, Night and Twilight

  • Gene S. Helfman


The simple diel cycle of rising and setting of the sun imposes on the behaviour and activity of fishes a dramatic, overriding set of predictable constraints. As a direct result, many kinds of behaviour and the species that engage in them follow characteristic convergent patterns that transcend geographic and taxonomic boundaries. These patterns can be recognised in such fundamental activities as the times when fishes feed, breed, aggregate and rest, in the transitions between activities, in the kinds of things that fishes eat, and in the ways in which fishes feed and avoid being eaten. The objectives of this chapter are to review the available information concerning the influences of day, night and twilight on various classes of fish behaviour; to delimit general diel activity patterns that characterise fishes in different habitat types; and to explore the environmental, ecological, physiological and developmental factors that interact with the cycle of daylight and darkness in determining diel patterns of fish behaviour. Throughout the chapter, day and daytime refer to daylight hours; night and nighttime refer to periods of darkness; crepuscular refers to twilight periods of dusk and dawn (sunset and sunrise); and diel refers to the 24-hour cycle.


Coral Reef Temperate Lake Quiet Period Fish Behaviour Coral Head 
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© Tony J. Pitcher 1986

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  • Gene S. Helfman

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