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Title: Habitat-Specific Foraging Strategies and Polymorphic Variation of Bluegill Sunfish, Lepomis macrochirus

As generalists, Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) feed in densely vegetated littoral and pelagic zones. Paradoxically, being a generalist requires that Bluegill adopt habitat-specific foraging strategies in order to successfully exploit local environments. To better understand their foraging behaviors, underwater cameras were deployed in different locations of Lake Waban, MA to reflect the diversity of local habitats within the lake. We identified three foraging strategies: hunting, grazing, and pelagic feeding. Each strategy is categorized as opportunistic or intentional and some are further subdivided into several modalities. Hunting occurs in shallow littoral zones, is intentional, often performed in groups, and is characterized by repeating cycles of burst-coast-stop-search until prey is visually detected. Grazing also occurs in shallow littoral zones, but is either intentional or opportunistic, and is characterized by three modalities depending on vegetation type. Active grazing involves biting and pulling on pondweed, whereas passive grazing involves hovering near milfoil and delicate suction feeding, and surface grazing involves searching beneath lily pads and explosive bouts of suction feeding. Pelagic feeding occurs in deep open water, is often opportunistic, may occur in groups, and is characterized by intermittent swimming from one morsel to the next. Some correlation exists between phenotype, age, and foraging more » strategy. For example, darker and deeper bodied adults engage in hunting, whereas lighter and fusiform Bluegill of all ages engage in pelagic feeding. These observations demonstrate the complex behaviors that characterize a paradigmatic generalist and illustrate the multitude of variables that impact their specific feeding strategies. « less
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Award ID's:
1754650; 2135851
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and comparative biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation