Behavioral Observations of Lilliputian Piscivores: Young-of-Year Sphyraena barracuda at Offshore Sub-Tropical Reefs (NW Atlantic

Auster, P.J., D. Grenda, J. Godfrey, E. Heupel, S. Auscavitch, and J. Mangiafico. 2011. Behavioral Observations of Lilliputian Piscivores: Young-of-Year Sphyraena barracuda at Offshore Sub-Tropical Reefs (NW Atlantic.

Southeastern Naturalist. 10(3):563-569

REEF Advanced Assessment Team Member, Dave Grenda, recently co-authored a paper documenting behavioral observations of young Great Barracuda occurring on live bottom sub-tropical reefs primarily at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. For the past three years Dave assisted University of Connecticut researcher, Dr. Peter Auster, in studying behavioral interactions of piscivores and their prey. During REEF surveys on these cruises, Dave and the other researchers documented young-of-year (YOY) Great Barracuda (those individuals that had very recently settled to the reef, and were between 2-3 inches in length) hunting YOY Tomtate and Silverside that were taking refuge under ledges. Groups of YOY Barracuda would attack, capture, and consume the prey. Prey that escaped the Barracuda retreated to reef edges and were often consumed by bottom-dwelling adult piscivores such as Black Sea Bass, Bank Sea Bass, and Scamp Grouper. These findings indicate that given the strong functional role the young Barracuda have on driving species interactions, greater attention should be given to the roles played by the wider diversity of YOY piscivores recruiting to reef communities.

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