Feeding ecology and diet

Beloniformes utilize a relatively wide spectrum of foods. Most impressive perhaps are the marine needlefishes, which cruise through the surface waters of the open ocean devouring small fishes. However, not all needlefishes are piscivores. In the Amazon, many belonids feed heavily on zooplankton or insects. Belonion apodion, which grows only to about 2 in (5 cm), is unusual in that it deftly snaps up individual rotifers, which are less than 0.004 in (0.1 mm) long and usually pass through the gill rakers of filter-feeding planktivorous fishes. Potamorrhaphis, which prefers terrestrial insects (especially flying ants), hovers motionlessly and waits for prey to fall to the surface alongside its body. Then it rapidly curls the body and strikes at the prey from the side.

Freshwater halfbeaks also feed on terrestrial insects, and some are particularly well suited to this mode of feeding.

Members of the genus Hemirhamphodon are noteworthy for having numerous anteriorly directed teeth on their lower jaws, which ensnare ants and other insects found floating on the surface. Marine halfbeaks, on the other hand, tend to feed on algae, diatoms, and sea grasses, though some species eat small fishes. Planktivorous marine beloniforms include the flying-fishes and sauries. Ricefishes are omnivorous and will eat plankton, small insects, detritus, and plant material.

Beloniformes themselves often fall prey to larger fishes. Flyingfishes in particular are eaten by mackerel, tuna, and marlin, among other predatory fishes, as well as squids and birds.

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