Recent work on teleosts suggests that attack behaviors or kinematics may be modified by a predator on the basis of the size of the prey or the ability of the prey to sense predators and escape capture (elusivity). Sharks are generally presumed to be highly visual predators; thus, it is reasonable to expect that they might also be capable of such behavioral modulation. In this study, I investigated the effect of prey item size and type on prey-capture behavior in leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) that had been acclimated to feeding in the laboratory. Using high-speed video, sharks were filmed feeding on two sizes of the same prey item (thawed shrimp pieces) and two potentially more elusive prey items (live earthworms and live mud shrimp). In leopard sharks, little effect of prey elusivity was found for kinematic variables during prey capture. However, the large proportion of successful captures of the live prey suggests that they did not prove to be truly elusive prey items for the leopard shark. There were significant size effects on prey-capture kinematics, with the larger non-elusive items inducing greater head expansion during prey capture. Ram-suction index values also indicated that strikes on large, non-elusive prey had a significantly larger suction component than strikes on similar small prey items. This finding is interesting given that the two sizes of non-elusive prey item offered no differential challenge in terms of a performance consequence (reduced capture success).

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