Diet Overlap in Redbreast and Longear Sunfishes from Small Streams of East Central Alabama

A food habit study was conducted for the redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) and the longear sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) occurring in small streams of the Coastal Plains and Piedmont Plateau physiographic provinces near Auburn, Alabama. Fish stomach analyses revealed that redbreast and longear are primarily insectivores. The bulk of the diet of both species in small streams was composed of aquatic and terrestrial insects. Crustaceans were also consumed by both species regularly. Ingestion of a wide variety of other organisms suggests opportunistic feeding in both species. Based on 24-hour sampling results, both species had the greatest food item diversity during daylight hours and the least after dark. Redbreast was the more active feeder. Significant overlap in food habits between the 2 species was evident using the Schoener Index to food overlap. Food habits of the 2 species appear similar enough to influence the distribution of these fishes in streams above and below the Fall Line. However, the situation merits additional study.

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