Effects of light-dark cycle on the spatial distribution and feeding activity of fish larvae of two co-occurring species (Pisces: Hypophthalmidae and Sciaenidae) in a Neotropical floodplain lake

<div><p>Abstract Most studies on mechanisms regulating fish larvae processes have focused on assessing the isolated effects of food distribution and feeding behavior. However, in natural ecosystems, fish larvae may strongly interact with zooplankton organisms in an array of complex, direct and indirect interdependencies. This study analyzed the spatial distribution, diet and feeding behavior of early stages of Hypophthalmus edentatus and Plagioscion squamosissimus, two fish species co-occurring in an isolated floodplain lake, during the light-dark cycle. Larvae fed more actively during dark periods (dusk and night) when they migrated toward the surface of the lake, and remained on the bottom and fed less during light periods (day and dawn). Cladocerans represented the most frequent prey in the diet of H. edentatus larvae. In turn, P. squamosissimus larvae initially preferred cladocerans and, as they developed, included calanoid copepods in the diet. Significant differences were detected in the frequencies of food items consumed during larval development, which could be related to a better ability of the most developed stages to explore the environment in search of other prey.</p></div>