Feeding ecology and diet

Feeding patterns and dietary preferences of tetraodontif-orm fishes also vary. Little is known about spikefish feeding. Those species with long, slender, and highly specialized snouts likely pluck microinvertebrates from the bottom or possibly the water column. Species with relatively larger mouths probably feed on benthic invertebrates. At least one species, Macrorhamphosodes uradoi, feeds on the scales of other fishes. Triplespines also eat benthic invertebrates unearthed from sand or mud. Boxfishes are mainly omnivorous and feed upon small invertebrates, especially sessile species, as well as benthic algae. Triggerfishes are more wide ranging in their diet and feed upon benthic invertebrates that include gastropods, bivalves, crustaceans, and various echinoderms. Some species also eat algae, and those that dwell in the water column eat zooplankton. Similarly, filefishes and leather-jackets favor various benthic invertebrates, but some species are specialized to feed upon live corals or zooplankton. The threetooth puffer probably limits its diet to benthic invertebrates. Pufferfishes are remarkable opportunists and feed upon various invertebrates as well as algae. Larger species are

A smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) eating sargeant major eggs, near St. Vincent, in the Caribbean. (Photo by Andrew J. Martinez/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
Two false-eye puffers (Canthigaster papua) courting, preparing a nest in algae on the coral reef, near Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Fred Mc-Connaughey/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

quite capable of breaking open hard-shelled organisms, such as gastropods, bivalves, and crustaceans. Some species are specialized for certain invertebrates, however. Porcupinefishes prefer hard-shelled invertebrates, which they crush with their beaks. The molas utilize their parrot-like beaks to feed upon zooplankton and jellyfishes in the water column but also take fishes, mollusks, crustaceans, and brittlestars when they are inshore or near the bottom in deep-slope areas.

Most members of this order are preyed upon while in the larva or post-larva stage. As adults, relatively few have predators. Successful predators would have to be tolerant of spines, bony plates, and ossicles formed from fused bones, and, in some families, toxins. Some toxic puffers (Tetraodontidae), however, are preyed upon by sea snakes.

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