Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

The role of the sensory systems of herring larvae in evading predatory fishes

J.H.S. Blaxtera1 and L.A. Fuimana1 p1

a1 Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, PO Box 3, Oban, Argyll, PA34 4AD


Herring (Clupea harengus L.) larvae, ranging from 8–35 mm T.L. were subjected to predation by juvenile herring and sprats (Sprattus sprattus L.) ranging from 80–160 mm T.L. Responses to attacks and non-threatening encounters were recorded by a TV system operated with infra-red light, which was invisible to both predator and prey. Records were made in both light and dark with larvae before and after the otic bullae filled with gas, before and after lateral line canal formation, and before and after chemical ablation of the neuromasts with streptomycin.

Larvae often responded with a C-start, turning away from the stimulus source, both in dark and light. Attacks on larvae occurred only in the light. Responsiveness to attacks was very low in the smaller larvae but increased as the otic bulla filled with gas and the lateral line canal developed. Larger larvae responded more often to attacks than to non-threatening encounters with predators. Vision seems to inhibit unnecessary responses since responsiveness was lower in the light than the dark for non-threatening encounters. Response distances were generally short, only 2–4 cm, with no substantial differences associated with sensory capability.


p1 Permanent address: University of Texas at Austin, Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, Texas 78373, USA