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Foraging among cannibals and kleptoparasites: effects of prey size on pike behavior

  • Anders Nilsson
  • Christer Brönmark
Publishing year: 1999
Language: English
Pages: 557-566
Publication/Series: Behavioral Ecology
Volume: 10
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract english

The northern pike (Esox lucius) is an important and selective piscivore that chooses smaller prey than predicted from energy / time budgets. In a laboratory experiment, we investigated pike predatory behavior to explain this selectivity. Northern pike feeding on different prey sizes in aquaria were observed when foraging alone, when in the presence of chemical cues from similar-sized or larger conspecifics, and when in the presence of conspecifics that were allowed to interact with the focal pike. The results show that prey handling time increases with prey size and that the duration of manipulating and handling prey inflicts a risk of exposure to cannibals and kleptoparasites on the pike. Therefore, the risk of falling victim to cannibals or kleptoparasites increases with prey size. Attracting and experiencing intraspecific interactors can be regarded as major fitness costs. Chemical cues from foraging conspecifics have only minor effects on pike foraging behavior. Furthermore, the ability to strike and swallow prey head first improves pike predatory performance because failing to do so increases handling time. Our findings emphasize the increasing potential costs with large prey and explain previous contradictory suggestions on the underlying mechanisms of behavior, selectivity, and trophic effects of northern pike predation.


  • Ecology
  • predation
  • northern pike
  • kleptoparasitism
  • foraging
  • cannibalism
  • Esox lucius
  • trade-offs


  • ISSN: 1045-2249
Anders Nilsson
E-mail: anders [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Aquatic ecology

+46 46 222 83 65

+46 70 346 25 66



Research group

Aquatic Ecology


Doctoral students and postdocs

Main supervisor

Varpu Pärssinen

Assistant supervisor

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