The feeding performance of individual hatchery-reared (HR) and wild juvenile spotted seatrout Cynoscion nebulosus was compared across a series of six 1·5 h feeding exposures over a 3 day period in a controlled experiment. The predation cycle served as a context for discerning feeding performance elements. The experimental design facilitated assessments of the effects of experience, motivation due to hunger or satiation and prey density and encounter frequency. Although feeding success improved significantly across successive trials for both groups of C. nebulosus, wild C. nebulosus successfully captured and consumed significantly more Palaemonetes spp. prey and completed most performance metrics more efficiently than HR C. nebulosus. Total exposure time decreased with experience for both groups of C. nebulosus; however, HR C. nebulosus took longer to complete feeding exposures. Underpinning this difference was the time spent by HR C. nebulosus in non-search mode and for completing various foraging behaviours. Nevertheless, juvenile HR C. nebulosus exhibited sufficient foraging plasticity to switch from a pelleted diet to live novel prey.
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