Cannibalism in pike fry, Esox lucius L.: some experiments with fry densities.
Pike fry were kept in 0.054-m3 tanks at densities of 50, 100 and 150 (277, 555, 833 fry m−2) for seven weeks during which the development of social and feeding behaviour was observed. Zooplankton, macro-invertebrates and perch fry were provided sequentially as food; the pike fry were allowed to feed ad libitum.
Zooplanktivorous fry stopped growing at 22 mm whilst, in the presence of abundant suitable alternative prey, 1–4% turned cannibalistic at 5 weeks of age; cannibals subsequently grew rapidly (mean 1.88 mm day−1). Cannibalism ensued in all tanks when the ratio of predator size: prey size was c.2:1.
Fry tended to space-out evenly in the tanks with no overt aggression or territoriality. Behaviour was typified by remaining still for long periods, particularly subsequent to the onset of cannibalism. Cannibals were attracted by fry movements which often initiated attacks.
Daily per capita mortality rates showed no crowding effects before cannibalism but significant density-dependent mortality due to cannibals. Consumption rates of cannibals varied between 0.63 and 6.0 fry per cannibal per day. Cannibals accounted for 54–96% of daily mortality in the experimental tanks. These results are discussed in relation to proposed mechanisms of pike population density regulation.