Ontogeny of Acoustic and Feeding Behaviour in the Grey Gurnard, Eutrigla gurnardus


M. Clara P. Amorim, Unidade de Investigação em Eco-Etologia, ISPA, Rua Jardim do Tabaco 34, 1149-041 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail: amorim@ispa.pt


Although sound production in teleost fish is often associated with territorial behaviour, little is known of fish acoustic behaviour in other agonistic contexts such as competitive feeding and how it changes during ontogeny. The grey gurnard, Eutrigla gurnardus, frequently emits knock and grunt sounds during competitive feeding and seems to adopt both contest and scramble tactics under defensible resource conditions. Here we examine, for the first time, the effect of fish size on sound production and agonistic behaviour during competitive feeding. We have made sound (alone) and video (synchronized image and sound) recordings of grey gurnards during competitive feeding interactions. Experimental fish ranged from small juveniles to large adults and were grouped in four size classes: 10–15, 15–20, 25–30 and 30–40 cm in total length. We show that, in this species, both sound production and feeding behaviour change with fish size. Sound production rate decreased in larger fish. Sound duration, pulse duration and the number of pulses increased whereas the peak frequency decreased with fish size, in both sound types (knocks and grunts). Interaction rate and the frequency of agonistic behaviour decreased with increasing fish size during competitive feeding sessions. The proportion of feeding interactions accompanied by sound production was similar in all size classes. However, the proportion of interactions accompanied by knocks (less aggressive sounds) and by grunts (more aggressive) increased and decreased with fish size, respectively. Taken together, these results suggest that smaller grey gurnards compete for food by contest tactics whereas larger specimens predominantly scramble for food, probably because body size gives an advantage in locating, capturing and handling prey. We further suggest that sounds emitted during feeding may potentially give information on the motivation and ability of the individual to compete for food resources.