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J Exp Biol. 2019 May 9;222(Pt 9). pii: jeb191411. doi: 10.1242/jeb.191411.

Predatory posture and performance in a precocious larval fish targeting evasive copepods.

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Pacific Biosciences Research Center, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.
Pacific Biosciences Research Center, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Department of Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53204, USA.
Marine Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas, TX 78373, USA.


Predatory fishes avoid detection by prey through a stealthy approach, followed by a rapid and precise fast-start strike. Although many first-feeding fish larvae strike at non-evasive prey using an S-start, the clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris feeds on highly evasive calanoid copepods from a J-shaped position, beginning 1 day post-hatch (dph). We quantified this unique strike posture by observing successful predatory interactions between larval clownfish (1 to 14 dph) and three developmental stages of the calanoid copepod Bestiolina similis The J-shaped posture of clownfish became less tightly curled (more L-shaped) during larval development. Larvae were also less tightly curled when targeting adult copepods, which are more evasive than younger copepod stages. Strike performance measured as time to capture and as peak speed improved only slightly with larval age. Therefore, the J-posture may allow first-feeding larvae to minimize disturbance during their approach of sensitive prey, and may represent an alternative predatory strategy to the prototypical S-start.


Evasive prey; Fast-start; Kinematics; Predation; S-start

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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