Comparison of the Hunting Behavior of Four Piscine Predators Attacking Schooling Prey


  • Julia K. Parrish

    Corresponding author
    1. Fisheries Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle
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      Parrish, J. K. 1993: Comparison of the hunting behavior of four piscine predators attacking schooling prey. Ethology 95, 233–246.

Institute for Environmental Studies, FM-12, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Four piscine predator species were observed repeatedly attacking large (> 100,000) schools of flat-iron herring, Harengula thrissina. The predators could be categorized into two groups. Stalking predators (two species) were slow-moving, predominantly solitary hunters attacking from positions beneath the school. Attacks were directed at individual prey and the sequence of events was orient-approach-strike. Although the stalking species were seen most often and were responsible for the majority of the attacks, capture success was low. The remaining two species were fast-moving, pelagic hunters regularly occurring in groups of up to 8 individuals. These predators were extremely proficient at capturing prey, either by orienting on individuals (stragglers) or accelerating into the school and ramming their prey (impact attacks). Group size was positively associated with capture success, but not significantly so. Because stalking predators orient towards individual prey, they may suffer from the effect of confusion when attacking schooling prey. Use of the impact strategy, by comparison, may allow predators to overcome the confusion effect either by attacking prey already separated from the school, or by orienting towards aggregated prey rather than particular individuals.