Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 6, pp 1249–1261 | Cite as

Ontogeny of predator-sensitive foraging and routine metabolism in larval shorthorn sculpin, Myoxocephalus scorpius

  • S. S. KillenEmail author
  • A. K. Gamperl
  • J. A. Brown
Research Article


Most animals will reduce foraging activity in the presence of a predatory threat. However, little is known about the onset of this decision-making ability during the early life stages of fishes, and how the trade-off between foraging and predator-avoidance may be affected by changes in metabolic demand during ontogeny. To examine these issues, the foraging behaviour of larval shorthorn sculpin Myoxocephalus scorpius was monitored during visual exposure to a predatory threat (juvenile Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua) throughout development at 3°C (March–April, 2004). Larvae did not respond to predatory exposure during the first week post-hatch, but thereafter showed drastic reductions in foraging activity when exposed to predators. During early development, the mass-specific routine metabolism of shorthorn sculpin larvae displayed a triphasic ontogeny and peaked during metamorphosis. This high mass-specific metabolic demand could make reduced foraging under predation threat very costly during this stage of development. To further investigate this possibility, additional experiments were performed (March–April, 2005) where larvae were reared with visual exposure to predators for 6 h day−1 during the feeding period. At 7-week post-hatch, larvae exposed to predators were smaller (wet mass and SL), showed decreased levels of whole-body lipids and certain fatty acids, and experienced higher rates of mortality as compared to control larvae. In environments where abundant predators cause larval fish to reduce their foraging rate, growth and survival of larvae may be negatively affected.


Larval Fish Predator Treatment Predation Threat Positive Allometry Metabolic Scaling 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by Memorial University of Newfoundland, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grants to JAB and AKG, a Canada Foundation for Innovation-New Opportunities Grant to AKG, and an NSERC post-graduate scholarship to SSK. We thank the technical services division of the OSC, the staff of the Dr. Joe Brown Aquatic Research Building (JBARB) for the rearing of Artemia sp. used in this study, and Phillip Sargent, Rene Boland, and Bob O’Donnell for the collection of the sculpin eggs. We also thank Dr. David Schneider for his assistance with statistical analyses, and Dr. Mark Abrahams and three anonymous reviewers for providing comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Finally, we are grateful to Dr. Chris Parrish for allowing us to use his laboratory to perform the lipid analyses, and to Vanessa French and Jeanette Wells for their technical assistance. This study was conducted in accordance with the laws of Canada and guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care and the Animal Care Committee of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material, approximately 26 KB.
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Supplementary material, approximately 30 KB.
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Supplementary material, approximately 30 KB.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology/Ocean Sciences CentreMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

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