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Fine-scale observations of the predatory behaviour of the carnivorous copepod Paraeuchaeta norvegica and the escape responses of their ichthyoplankton prey, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)

Browman, Howard I., Yen, Jeannette, Fields, David M., St-Pierre, Jean-François, Skiftesvik, Anne Berit
Marine biology 2011 v.158 no.12 pp. 2653-2660
Copepoda, Gadus morhua, aquariums, body length, cod (fish), ecosystems, ichthyoplankton, larvae, models, photography, predators, swimming, tail, yolk sac
Paraeuchaeta norvegica (8.5 mm total length) and yolk-sac stage Atlantic cod larvae (4 mm total length) (Gadus morhua) larvae were observed in aquaria (3 l of water) using silhouette video photography. This allowed direct observations (and quantitative measurement) of predator–prey interactions between these two species in 3-dimensions. Tail beats, used by cod larvae to propel themselves through the viscous fluid environment, also generate signals detectable by mechanoreceptive copepod predators. When the prey is close enough for detection and successful capture (approximately half a body-length), the copepod launches an extremely rapid high Reynolds number attack, grabbing the larva around its midsection. While capture itself takes place in milliseconds, minutes are required to subdue and completely ingest a cod larva. The behavioural observations are used to estimate the hydrodynamic signal strength of the cod larva’s tail beats and the copepod’s perceptive field for larval fish prey. Cod larvae are more sensitive to fluid velocity than P. norvegica and also appear capable of distinguishing between the signal generated by a swimming and an attacking copepod. However, the copepod can lunge at much faster velocities than a yolk-sac cod larva can escape, leading to the larva’s capture. These observations can serve as input to the predator–prey component of ecosystem models intended to assess the impact of P. norvegica on cod larvae.