Feeding ecology and diet

Flatfishes are extremely successful in conducting life on or near the bottom, where they function in pivotal ecological roles as both predator and prey. Flatfish diets include such prey as shrimps, decapod and other crustaceans, mollusks, polychaetes, and many other types of small invertebrates, as well as echinoderms, fishes, and cephalopods. Small-mouthed species, especially tonguefishes (Cynoglossidae), achirid soles (Achiridae), and true soles (Soleidae), feed on a broad spectrum of smaller epifaunal and infaunal organisms.

Halibuts, larger species of bothid and paralichthyid flounders, larger pleuronectids, and the larger scophthalmids are active predators that consume fishes, larger and more active crustaceans (shrimps, lobsters, crabs), and cephalopods (squids and octopuses). The halibuts, with their great size and swimming abilities, actively pursue and chase down their prey, whereas other large flatfishes generally are ambush predators that lie on the bottom or partially buried within the sediment, concealed by their camouflage coloration and awaiting unsuspecting prey to approach within striking distance.

All life stages of flatfishes are eaten by predators that include both invertebrates and vertebrates. While in the plankton, eggs and larvae are consumed by jellyfishes, ctenophores, arrow worms, mysid shrimps, and fishes. Young, newly settled flatfishes are attacked and consumed by crabs, shrimps, and fishes. Juvenile and adult flatfishes fall prey to a wide variety of predatory fishes, including cods, hakes, sculpins, rock-fishes, striped bass, other flatfishes (sometimes their own species), monkfish, bluefish, cobia, groupers, moray eels, sea ravens, large skates, stingrays, and various sharks, as well as birds (egrets, herons, cormorants, gulls), seals, and sea lions.

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