Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Chemical cues which include amino acids mediate species-specific feeding behavior in invasive filter-feeding bigheaded carps.

Abstract

This study tested whether and how dissolved chemicals might assist food recognition in two filter-feeding fishes, the silver (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and the bighead carp (H. nobilis). These species evolved in Asia, are now invasive in the Mississippi River, and feed voraciously on microparticles including plankton. The food habits and biology of these carps are broadly similar to many filter-feeding fish, none of whose chemical ecology has been examined. We conducted five experiments. First, we demonstrated that buccal-pharngeal pumping (BPP), a behavior in which fish pump water into their buccal cavities, is responsible for sampling food: BPP activity in both silver and bighead carps was low and increased nearly 25-fold after exposure to a filtrate of a planktonic food mixture (P< 0.01) and over 35-fold when planktonic food was added (P< 0.001). Next, we showed that of nine food filtrates, the one containing chemicals released by spirulina, a type of cyanobacterium, was the most potent planktonic component for both species. The potency of filtrates varied between species in ways that reflected their different chemical compositions. While L-amino acids could explain about half of the activity of food filtrate, other unknown chemical stimuli were also implicated. Finally, occlusion experiments showed the olfactory sense has a very important, but not exclusive, role in bigheaded carp feeding behaviors and this might be exploited in both their control and culture.