Prey Capture Behavior of Native vs. Nonnative Fishes: A Case Study From the Colorado River Drainage Basin (USA)

Anthony Arena, Lara A. Ferry, Alice C. Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The Colorado River drainage basin is home to a diverse but imperiled fish fauna; one putative challenge facing natives is competition with nonnatives. We examined fishes from Colorado River tributaries to address the following questions: Do natives and nonnatives from the same trophic guild consume the same prey items? Will a given species alter its behavior when presented with different prey types? Do different species procure the same prey types via similar feeding behaviors? Roundtail chub (Gila robusta) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), midwater predators, and Sonora sucker (Catostomus insignis) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio), benthic omnivores, were offered six ecologically relevant prey types in more than 600 laboratory trials. Native species consumed a broader array of prey than nonnatives, and species from a given trophic guild demonstrated functional convergence in key aspects of feeding behavior. For example, roundtail chub and smallmouth bass consume prey attached to the substrate by biting, then ripping the prey from its point of attachment; in contrast, Sonora sucker remove attached prey via scraping. When presented with different prey types, common carp, roundtail chub, and smallmouth bass altered their prey capture behavior by modifying strike distance, gape, and angle of attack. Gape varied among the species examined here, with smallmouth bass demonstrating the largest functional and anatomical gape at a given body size. Because fish predators are gape-limited, smallmouth bass will be able to consume a variety of large prey items in the wild, including large, invasive crayfish and young roundtail chub-their presumptive trophic competitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-116
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
Volume317 A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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