Ontogenetic diet shifts are an important component of the early life history of many fishes. Successfully shifting diets affects not only individuals but also populations and communities. We experimentally quantified prey selection and feeding behavior of age-0 yellow perch Perca flavescens to determine the sizes at which diet shifts occur and identify potential mechanisms driving these shifts. Yellow perch were provided three prey types (zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, and fish) at high- and low-density combinations. Small yellow perch (20 mm total length [TL]) positively selected zooplankton, but intermediate-sized fish (40 and 60 mm TL) shifted to benthic invertebrates. At 80 mm TL, yellow perch positively selected benthic invertebrate and fish prey, indicating the onset of piscivory. Relative densities of prey items did not influence prey selection patterns. Diet shifts from zooplankton to benthic invertebrates to fish prey were supported by an increased energetic gain and decreased foraging costs for each prey type as age-0 yellow perch size increased. Quantifying prey selection and foraging behavior under various prey densities can be used to better understand mechanisms governing ontogenetic diet shifts in fishes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science