Evaluating the use of ram and suction during prey capture by cichlid fishes

Peter C. Wainwright, Lara A. Ferry-Graham, Thomas B. Waltzek, Andrew M. Carroll, C. Darrin Hulsey, Justin R. Grubich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


We characterized prey-capture strategies in seven species of cichlid fishes representing diverse trophic habits and anticipated feeding abilities. The species examined were Petenia splendida, Cichla ocellaris, Cichlasoma minckleyi, Astronotus ocellatus, Crenicichla geayi, Heros severus (formerly Cichlasoma severum) and Cyprichromis leptosoma. Three individuals per species were filmed with video at 500 Hz as they captured live adult Artemia sp. and Poecilia reticulata. For each feeding sequence, we measured the contribution of predator movement towards the prey (i.e. ram) and the movement of prey towards the predator due to suction. The use of ram differed significantly among prey types and predator species, varying as much as sixfold across predator species. High values of ram resulted in high attack velocities. Jaw protrusion contributed as much as 50% to overall ram values in some species, verifying its role in enhancing attack velocity. Suction distance did not vary significantly among species. Diversity in prey-capture behavior was therefore found to reflect differences among species in the strategy used to approach prey. Limited variation in the distance from which prey were sucked into the mouth is interpreted as the result of an expected exponential decline in water velocity with distance from the mouth of the suction-feeding predator. We propose that this relationship represents a major constraint on the distance over which suction feeding is effective for all aquatic-feeding predators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3039-3051
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cichlid
  • Feeding
  • Feeding performance
  • Index
  • Prey capture
  • Ram-suction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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