The effect of prey density on foraging mode selection in juvenile lumpfish: balancing food intake with the metabolic cost of foraging

J Anim Ecol. 2007 Jul;76(4):814-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01237.x.


1. In many species, individuals will alter their foraging strategy in response to changes in prey density. However, previous work has shown that prey density has differing effects on the foraging mode decisions of ectotherms as compared with endotherms. This is likely due to differences in metabolic demand; however, the relationship between metabolism and foraging mode choice in ectotherms has not been thoroughly studied. 2. Juvenile lumpfish Cyclopterus lumpus forage using one of two modes: they can actively search for prey while swimming, or they can 'sit-and-wait' for prey while clinging to the substrate using a ventral adhesive disk. The presence of these easily distinguishable foraging modes makes juvenile lumpfish ideal for the study of foraging mode choice in ectotherms. 3. Behavioural observations conducted during laboratory experiments showed that juvenile lumpfish predominantly use the 'cling' foraging mode when prey is abundant, but resort to the more costly 'swim' mode to seek out food when prey is scarce. The metabolic cost of active foraging was also quantified for juvenile lumpfish using swim-tunnel respirometry, and a model was devised to predict the prey density at which lumpfish should switch between the swim and cling foraging modes to maximize energy intake. 4. The results of this model do not agree with previous observations of lumpfish behaviour, and thus it appears that juvenile lumpfish do not try to maximize their net energetic gain. Instead, our data suggest that juvenile lumpfish forage in a manner that reduces activity and conserves space in their limited aerobic scope. This behavioural flexibility is of great benefit to this species, as it allows young individuals to divert energy towards growth as opposed to activity. In a broader context, our results support previous speculation that ectotherms often forage in a manner that maintains a minimum prey encounter rate, but does not necessarily maximize net energy gain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Fishes / metabolism
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Population Density
  • Population Dynamics
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology*