We tested prey preferences of adult (200- to 222-mm long) redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) on two size classes of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and two-ridge rams-horns (Helisoma anceps) in experimental aquaria. We also tested physical limitations on consuming these mollusks and determined prey bioenergetic profitability. Redear sunfish strongly preferred rams-horns over zebra mussles, but they displayed no size preference for either prey. Ingestion was not physically limited since both prey species up to 15-mm long fit within the pharyngeal gapes of redear sunfish. Rams-horns were more bioenergetically profitable than zebra mussles and ingestion of rams-horn shell fragments was about three times less than zebra mussels. Rams-horns were somewhat more resistant to shell-crushing, but all size ranges of both prey species tested were crushable by redear sunfish. These studies suggested that the redear sunfish should not be considered a panacea for biological control of zebra mussels.
Additional publication details
Preference of redear sunfish on zebra mussels and rams-horn snails