Larval fishes suffer prodigious mortality rates, eliminating 99% of the brood within a few days after first feeding. Hjort (1914) famously attributed this "critical period" of low survival to the larvae's inability to obtain sufficient food [Hjort (1914) Rapp P-v Réun Cons Int Explor Mer 20:1-228]. However, the cause of this poor feeding success remains to be identified. Here, we show that hydrodynamic constraints on the ubiquitous suction mechanism in first-feeding larvae limit their ability to capture prey, thereby reducing their feeding rates. Dynamic-scaling experiments revealed that larval size is the primary determinant of feeding rate, independent of other ontogenetic effects. We conclude that first-feeding larvae experience "hydrodynamic starvation," in which low Reynolds numbers mechanistically limit their feeding performance even under high prey densities. Our results provide a hydrodynamic perspective on feeding of larval fishes that focuses on the physical properties of the larvae and prey, rather than on prey concentration and the rate of encounters.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - 3 Jun 2014|
- Larval ecology
- Stable ocean hypothesis
- Suction feeding
ASJC Scopus subject areas