Lionfish Prey Preference between Native Basslets Public

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/honors_college_theses/j3860868q

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  • The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is a successful invasive predator with large impacts on native fish populations in the western Atlantic. Lionfish predation may affect competition between prey species so it is important to understand whether lionfish display preferences between prey species. I investigated lionfish and native graysby grouper prey preference between prey species and prey size using two closely-related and potentially competitive prey species, the fairy basslet and blackcap basslet. In paired choice tests in aquaria, I recorded the first basslet hunted, total number of strikes, and total time spent hunting on each basslet as quantifications of preference. Lionfish initially hunted fairy basslet while graysby initially hunted blackcap basslet but neither predator displayed any preference between species in number of strikes or time spent hunting. Across all variables, lionfish preference shifted from small to large basslets as lionfish size increased, consistent with being a gape-limited predator, while graysby of all sizes tested preferred only large basslets. Brighter coloration and higher activity level of fairy basslet may have influenced lionfish initial preference but it is unclear why graysby initially hunted blackcap basslet. Lionfish initial preference may alter competition between the two basslet species if initial preference leads to increased fairy basslet mortality.
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