Seasonal plankton–fish interactions: light regime, prey phenology, and herring foraging


  • Corresponding Editor: M. H. Carr.


When prey and predator are seasonal migrants, encounters depend on migration phenologies and environmental constraints on predation. Here we investigate the relative contribution of seasonality in irradiance and prey abundance in shaping the rapid seasonal body condition increase of a migrating predator searching visually for its prey: the Norwegian spring-spawning herring, Clupea harengus, feeding on the copepod Calanus finmarchicus. Two main seasonal pulses of prey are available to herring: (1) the parent generation of C. finmarchicus, with peak abundance in March–April, which appear too early to cause the main increase in herring condition; and (2) the abundant offspring generation of C. finmarchicus, with peak abundance in June–July, too late to explain the main increase in body condition. However, a mechanistic model of ingestion rate, including both solar irradiance and prey abundance, predicted seasonal food intake in good accordance with observed herring body condition. This suggests that the seasonality in herring foraging and energy storage is closely linked to the return of longer days in spring, and less dependent on a match or mismatch with seasonal peaks in abundance of their zooplankton prey. Consequently, light related constraints on foraging may make visually searching predators at high latitudes resilient to changes and fluctuations in prey phenology and abundance, but vulnerable to changes in the light regime, such as water clarity.