The lake herring (Coregonus artedi) is an important coldwater planktivore in the Laurentian Great Lakes and in smaller inland lakes in portions of Canada and the northern United States. Lake herring cruise the pelagia and feed selectively in both gulping and particulate modes. They are visual predators in environments with adequate illumination. Visual predation by fish consists of a series of discrete steps. We studied the first step in the predation sequence, reaction to prey, at light intensities of 2-1500 Lx in a simulated pelagic environment at 10-13 degrees C. We measured lake herring reactive distances, the distance at which a prey item will be detected and attacked, to live Limnocalanus macrurus, a natural prey of lake herring in Lake Superior. We used the reactive distances and associated angles of bearing and elevation, which described the location of the prey relative to the lake herring, to calculate reactive volume. This reactive volume can be envisioned as an irregular sphere surrounding the fish, within which prey are detected and attacked. All of the attacks on prey occurred in the anterior portions of the sagittal and lateral planes of the lake herring, as would be expected for a pelagic, cruising fish. The reactive volume surrounding the lake herring was generally spherical, but was more irregular than the simple spheres, hemispheres, cylinders, cones or other geometries assumed in previous studies. The reactive distances and the reactive volume changed with light intensity and were significantly smaller at 2-10 Lx than at 40-1500 Lx. At 40-1500 Lx, the reactive volume was expanded over that observed at 2-10 Lx laterally and caudally. Collectively our results indicate that lake herring can visually forage most effectively in environments with light levels >10 Lx.
Additional publication details
The effect of light on lake herring (Coregonus artedi) reactive volume