Predator-Predator Interactions

Single-species foraging assemblages have been demonstrated for many marine vertebrates (birds, rays, etc.), yet the functional role of these behaviors remains relatively misunderstood. It is postulated that these assemblages allow predators to more precisely hone in on productive feeding habitats, and ignore unprofitable patches that would otherwise result in energetic losses. 

  A school of cownose rays foraging along a shallow sandflat

A school of cownose rays foraging along a shallow sandflat

MAJOR QUESTION: Does conspecific density influence the behavioral decisions and thus foraging rates of aggregating marine fishes? 

Multi-species (i.e., heterospecific) foraging assemblages have also piqued our research interest over the years. While foraging on benthic invertebrates, many other species of fish scavenge pieces of food made available by the excavation behavior of demersal fishes. We are interested in studying the importance of these focal benthic predators (goatfishes, trunkfish, rays) to the energetics, growth, and dietary niche width of these other "shadow-feeding" species such as jacks, wrasses, and other more pelagic fishes.

  A Puddingwife wrasse (above) follows an actively foraging Smooth Trunkfish (below)as it excavates prey with water jetting.

A Puddingwife wrasse (above) follows an actively foraging Smooth Trunkfish (below)as it excavates prey with water jetting.

MAJOR QUESTION: How and why did heterospecific foraging assemblages evolve in large fishes?