Comparison of foraging strategies and feeding rates of the Atlantic Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus
Coral reef fish exhibit remarkably diverse hunting techniques such as solitary hunting, shadow stalking, nuclear hunting, and hunting in schools of fish. This study examines the differences in feeding rates of the Atlantic Trumpetfish, Aulostomus maculatus, while it utilizes four dissimilar foraging strategies. Observations were completed in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean while SCUBA diving to record A. maculatus striking at its prey. Feeding rates were calculated from the number of bites at prey during an observation period, in order to rank the strategies. Although consumption of prey was not determined, it is expected that feeding rate will track the number of bites at prey items and is used as a proxy for feeding rate in this study. Solitary foraging was hypothesized to exhibit the highest feeding rate due to its high prevalence on the reef, followed by shadow stalking, nuclear hunting, and hunting in schools. Competition for prey during associations with other fish and rarity of dense aggregations of schooling fish was thought to support the hypothesis. In this study, the feeding rate during solitary foraging was found to be significantly lower than shadow stalking, nuclear hunting, and hunting in schools, which were not significantly different from each other. The results indicate that A. maculatus forage more successfully in groups and exhibit multiple foraging strategies to exploit prey most efficiently. The hunting behavior of A. maculatus affects prey and other associated species, thus understanding this behavior may lead to further knowledge of other predatory fish and interspecific interactions.