Hydrodynamic Constraints of Suction Feeding in Low Reynolds Numbers, and the Critical Period of Larval Fishes

Roi Holzman, Victor China, Sarit Yaniv, Miri Zilka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Larval fishes suffer prodigious mortality rates, eliminating 99% of the cohort within a few days after their first feeding. Hjort (1914) famously attributed this "critical period" of low survival to larval inability to obtain sufficient food. We discuss recent experimental and modeling work, suggesting that the viscous hydrodynamic regime have marked effects on the mechanism of suction feeding in larval fish. As larvae grow, the size of the gape and associated volume of the mouth increase. At the same time, larvae swim faster and can generate faster suction flows, thus transiting to a hydrodynamic regime of higher Reynolds numbers. This hydrodynamic regime further leads to changes in the spatio-temporal patterns of flow in front of the mouth, and an increasing ability in larger larvae to exert suction forces on the prey. Simultaneously, the increase in swimming speed and the distance from which the prey is attacked result in higher rates of encountering prey by larger (older) larvae. In contrast, during the first few days after feeding commence the lower rates of encounter and success in feeding translate to low feeding rates. We conclude that young larvae experience "hydrodynamic starvation," in which low Reynolds numbers mechanically limit their feeding performance even under high densities of prey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-61
Number of pages14
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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