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The feeding behavior of a South American parasitic catfish (Ochmacanthus alternus)
October 22, 2014
4:42 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Journal of Freshwater Ecology - DOI: 10.1080/02705060.2014.967816

Abstract

Ochmacanthus alternus is a small South American parasitic catfish. Previous work, primarily based on examination of gut contents collected in the field, has indicated that it feeds primarily on mucus. The objective of this study was to conduct laboratory experiments on feeding behavior, including assessments of host size selectivity and location of attacks on hosts. Ochmacanthus alternus fed by making contact with a fish and pivoting from side to side, apparently scraping mucus. Feeding attacks were of short duration, with a mean of 2.5 seconds, but longer attacks (up to 29 seconds) occurred earlier in feeding trials. Large hosts (standard length: 75–96 mm) were attacked significantly more often than small hosts (standard length: 29–51 mm), regardless of whether or not expected frequencies of attack were adjusted to reflect host surface area. Attacks tended to be directed anteriorly on the host but were terminated posteriorly. The catfish seemed to be attracted to sources of physical disturbance in the water, such as those created by hosts struggling to terminate attacks by other catfish. This tended to result in attacks occurring in distinct bouts. We conclude that O. alternus is capable of host size and site selectivity, at least under the conditions tested in the laboratory.

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