The ability to modulate prey capture behaviors is of interest to organismal biologists as it suggests that predators can perceive features of the prey and select suitable behaviors from an available repertoire to successfully capture the item. Thus, behavior may be as important a trait as morphology in determining an organism's diet. Using high-speed video, we measured prey capture kinematics in three cheeklined wrasse, Oxycheilinus digrammus. We studied the effects of three experimental prey treatments: live fish, dead prawn suspended in the water column, and dead prawn pieces anchored to the substrate in a clip. Live prey elicited significantly more rapid strikes than dead prey suspended in the water column, and the head of the predator was expanded to significantly larger maxima. These changes in prey capture kinematics suggest the generation of more inertial suction. With greater expansion of the head, more water can be accelerated into the buccal cavity. The attached prey treatment elicited strikes as rapid as those on live prey. We suggest that the kinematics of rapid strikes on attached prey are indicative of attempts to use suction to detach the prey item. More rapid expansion of the buccal or mouth cavity should lead to higher velocities of water entering the mouth and therefore to enhanced suction. Further modulation in response to the attached prey item, such as clipping or wrenching behaviors, was not observed. J. Exp. Zool. 290:88-100, 2001.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.