General picture of a Tiger musky

 Predation Behaviors

     As full grown adults, tiger muskies are apex predators in their environments. This means tiger muskies' food sources can vary from big game fish like small mouth and largemouth bass to small fish like minnows and pan fish. Tiger muskies are even known to eat birds and small mammals as well as their own juvenile pareTiger musy thrashing its head as it realizes it's hooked. Photo compliments of Dave Webbnt species northern pike and muskellunge. A study done by Wahl and Stein picks three major food items in a tiger muskies diet: gizzard shad, fat head minnows, and blue gill, an analyzed the food item most preferred, the optimal size of each fish, the bait fish easiest to live off of, and the reasons why those fish are the easiest prey to live off.

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     Optimal Prey size depends on how big the predator is and the prey type. Tiger muskies prefer blue gill to be 25 to 30 % of their body length, Gizzard shad are preferred to be between 30 and 36%, and fat head minnows to be 37 to 43% (Wahl and Stein1988). Tiger muskies target bigger gizzard shad and fathead minnows because they have soft rayed spines; these soft rayed spines make them much easier victims. In addition to soft rayed spines, results show that shad and minnows are typically less reactant to predators and simply less aware of their surroundings which also make them easy targets. Blue gill on the other hand are very aware of their surroundings and tend to have a very quick reaction time when attacked. Blue gill also have hard rayed spines making it more difficult for predators to eat them without harming themselves. The defensive mechanisms or lack of defensive mechanisms directly associate with the bait fish that was captured most often per strike. In this case gizzard shad were captured 78% of the time per strike, while minnows were a close second at 67% per strike, and lastly the hard rayed blue gills dropping the tiger muskies chances of a capture to 14 % per strike (Wahl and Stein 1988). In relation to the statistics above, when tiger muskies are placed in an environment with only gizzard shad in comparison to an environment with only blue gill, tiger muskies survive better and grow faster in the shad environment due to the shads’ lack of defensive mechanisms and lack of instinctual reactions to predators.

Tiger Musky Behavior with Prey(Wahl and Stein 1988)
Tiger muskies also perform certain behaviors in the presence of prey depenTiger musky landedding on whether they are aggressive or relaxed at that moment.
Search: This is when tiger muskies are moving but not orienting themselves with a prey item.
Follow: Moving and orienting to particular prey
Pursue: Following at a burst of speed
Attack: Striking at Prey
Capture: Grasping prey
Inactive: Resting and motionless not oriented towards prey
Observe: Motionless but oriented to an individual prey, typically beating their fins

Figure 10. Landed tiger muskie. Photo by Gilbert Rowley.

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