Cormorant Pursuing a Fish School – Lütfü Tanrıöver (2014)

Lütfü Tanrıöver recorded this short observation in the eastern Mediterranean town of Fethiye. As the camera rolled it recorded some pretty interesting interactions.

Most water birds ambush their prey. Cormorants are different. They actively chase their prey underwater. Here you can see one going after a small school of Mediterranean sand smelt (Atherina hepsetus). Predation pressure is intense. If you pay attention you will notice another predator of small fish, a blue-spotted cornet fish entering the screen from the very beginning of the footage (check out 2 O’clock direction). At 6 second into the observation the cornet fish travels to 9 O’clock and that is when the cormorant and cornet fish literally come face to face! Immediately cornet fish retreats to a safe distance.

Blue-spotted cornet fish (Fistularia commersonii) is a Lessepsian migrant. In the Red Sea it is among the few predators of another Lessepsian migrant the lionfish (Pteroides miles). Lionfish is an introduced species in many seas especially wreaking havoc in biological communities along the Atlantic coast of Americas and the Carribean by eating juvenile reef fish and altering food web.

The cornet fish has been reported to contain juvenile lionfishes in it’s gut content. Blue-spotted cornet fish also has migrated to the Mediterranean through Suez Canal pretty much the same way Pteroides miles did and is suspected to be one of the predators keeping lionfish population under control in the Mediterranean. Groupers in the Caribbean have been seen eating injured and dead lionfish speared by divers, but as yet they don’t appear to be active predators.

Schooling behavior of fish has been a curious biological subject for studying self-organizing systems in nature. The larger fish that occasionaly come to the foreground are white seabream (Diplodus sargus sargus).



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