The Predators and the Prey

TO FIND OUT WHO IS EATING WHOM in Chesapeake Bay, scientists looked inside the stomachs of predator fish. There they discovered that these five important predators did much of their dining on these 10 species of prey. A large part of their diet was, surprisingly, small invertebrates, animals like mysids and worms that have no backbones. And these five predators also feed on the young of other fish, especially on small spot, croaker and weakfish.

This chart maps out the major food sources for the Bay’s most popular predator fish, based on data collected from 2002 to 2012. A fat line linking predator and prey means more of that prey showed up in that predator’s diet. A thinner line means less. Prey species that represented less than five percent of a predator's diet are not shown.

Predator/Prey Graphic: Nicole Lehming; Source: Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, Chesapeake Bay Program
Predator/Prey Legend to the diagram

     Striped bass (Morone saxatilis)

Size: Up to 36 inches

Life span: Up to 30 years

Key facts: Up to 90 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population spawn in the Chesapeake Bay's fresh water. As adults, some stripers migrate into the Atlantic Ocean.

Favorite prey: Bay anchovies (Anchoa mitchilli)

     Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulates)

Size: Up to 24 inches

Life span: Up to 8 years Key facts: Born on the continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean, these fish enter the Bay to grow larger, eventually migrating back to the ocean to spawn.

Favorite prey: Worms (Class: Polchaeta*)

     White perch (Morone americana)

Size: Up to 10 inches

Life span: Up to 17 years

Key facts: Though a relative of the striped bass, this fish spends its entire life in the Chesapeake Bay.

Favorite prey: Worms (Class: Polchaeta*)

     Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus)

Size: Up to 22 inches

Life span: Up to 20 years

Key facts: Born in the Atlantic Ocean along the continental shelf, larvae drift into the Bay in fall and winter. Once adults, flounder migrate back to the ocean.

Favorite prey: Mysids (Order: Mysida*)

     Clearnose skate (Raja eglanteria)

Size: Up to 30 inches

Life span: 5 years or more

Key facts: They live primarily in salty water near the Bay’s mouth in Virginia.

Favorite prey: Razor clams (Ensis directus)

* Class and order are used for types of prey that include multiple species.

Graphic: Nicole Lehming; Source: Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, Chesapeake Bay Program

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