Prey selection by the larvae of three species of littoral fishes on natural zooplankton assemblages

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The prey selection of larvae of three common littoral fish species (pike, Esox lucius; roach, Rutilus rutilus; and three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus) was studied experimentally in the laboratory by using natural zooplankton assemblages. Zooplankton prey was offered at four different concentrations to study the functional responses of the planktivores. The diets of pike and sticklebacks were formed mainly of copepod juveniles and adults, which dominated the prey communities, although sticklebacks ate also cladocerans. The diet of roach larvae consisted of rotifers, cladocerans and copepods, without prey selection, in equal proportions indicating a more omnivorous diet. All fish larvae were able to feed selectively although in sticklebacks prey selection was less pronounced. Pike and roach larvae preferred large prey to smaller prey types. Patterns of prey selection are discussed in the context of size-selection theory and apparent vs. true selection.

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