The dynamics of prey choice in fish: the importance of prey size and satiation


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Over a number of decades the process of prey choice has been investigated using fishes as model predators. Using fishes for the model has allowed the proximate factors that determine how a mobile predator finds and chooses to eat the prey encountered within a variable 3-D environment to be estimated. During prey choice a number of constraints exist, in particular most fish predators will eat their prey whole thus their jaws and gut create functional limitations once a prey has been attacked. By considering the relationship between the size of the prey and the predator's feeding apparatus and feeding motivation this study explores the link between mechanistic studies and theoretical, optimal foraging based predictions. How the prediction of prey choices made by the fish following prey encounter can be reconciled with what is likely to be found in the fish's stomach is discussed. This study uses a progression of empirical examples to illustrate how the limits of functional constraints and prey choice at different stages of motivation to feed can be taken into account to improve predictions of predator prey choice.