Nutritional status determines apparent assimilative capacity and functional response of marine predatory fish

Niels Gerner Andersen*, Stefan Neuenfeldt, Bjarte Bogstad, Ken Haste Andersen, Jan Erik Beyer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Marine predatory fish face unpredictable prey environments, ranging from abundance to scarcity of food. Dimensioning their assimilative system to accommodate gorging and fasting is therefore a central life history choice. Assimilative capacity experiments typically operate with sustained feeding to satiation, and therefore ignore the fluctuations in natural feeding opportunities. A more relevant description of the adaptive response is the episodic capacity associated with binge feeding (hyperphagia). We develop the theoretical foundation to define episodic and sustained capacity and its allometry. Extensive empirical evidence on marine piscivorous fish at higher latitudes confirms that the episodic capacity scales almost linearly with predator body mass (exponent approximately 0.95), producing an increasing factorial hyperphagic scope (exponent approximately 0.20). Our synthesis overturns the reigning steady state perspective on assimilative capacity. The fish can utilize an episodic capacity, typically twice the size of the sustained capacity, resulting in local dynamics of functional responses with profound implications for scaling-up to ecosystem level.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsab197
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)3615-3624
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Allometry
  • Binge feeding
  • Digestive capacity
  • Foraging strategy
  • Higher latitudes
  • Hyperphagia
  • Piscivorous fish
  • Stomach contents


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