Feeding on Profitable and Unprofitable Prey: Comparing Behaviour of Growth-Enhanced Transgenic and Normal Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)


L. F. Fredrik Sundström, Department of Zoology, Göteborg University, Box 463, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden. E-mail: fredrik.sundstrom@zool.gu.se


We compared the performance of normal and growth hormone-transgenic coho salmon feeding on surface drifting edible and inedible novel prey items in various social environments. With an inherently higher appetite, we predicted that transgenic fish would be more willing to feed on novel prey, and that visual company with another fish would enhance this difference further. Transgenic and normal fish, of similar size and age, were equally willing to attack both the edible (live insects) and inedible (artificial angling lure flies) prey, but transgenic fish did so faster and were more likely to make repeated attacks. Transgenic fish managed to seize and consume the edible prey after fewer attacks than did normal fish. However, swallowing of prey took longer than for normal fish. More transgenic individuals interacted with the inedible prey compared with normal salmon, and initially, transgenic fish in visual company with another fish also interacted more with the prey than single transgenic or any constellation of normal focal fish. With repeated exposures, the number of individuals attacking and the number of interactions with the prey decreased. These responses were stronger in transgenic fish, partly explained by the initially low response in normal fish. The observed differences are most likely the consequences of elevated levels of growth hormone in transgenic fish generating enhanced feeding motivation and reinforcement capacity. In a natural environment, the performance of a growth hormone-transgenic fish may therefore depend on the relative abundance of profitable vs. unprofitable prey, as well as the presence of other transgenic individuals.