What Do Salmons Eat?

What do Salmons eat?
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What Do Salmons Eat? Salmon falls under a class of ray-finned fish categorized under the family Salmonidae. Their name is drawn from a Latin word meaning “to leap“. Salmon is a favorite kind of fish in North America, especially for commercial (food) and sportfishing.

Salmon are carnivores preferring a meaty diet. Their broad palate includes zooplankton, small invertebrates, and small fish with the examples of krill and herring.

Table of Contents

What Do Salmons Eat?

Type of Salmon Diet
Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) Larvae (from aquatic insects), terrestrial insects, zooplankton, herring, capelin, mackerel, and smelts.
Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Small crustaceans, insects, herring and sand lance.
Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) Squid, small fish, zooplankton, and small crustaceans.
Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) Riparian plants, fish, and aquatic insects.

Salmon Diet by Types

2 types of salmon exist. This includes the Atlantic salmon, classified under the genus Salmo and the Pacific salmon classified under the genus Onchorhynchus.

The types of salmon discussed in this section will be drawn from these two genera, which scientists indicate diverged in the early Miocene period.

What Do Atlantic Salmons Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Salmoniformes Salmonidae Salmo Salmo salar

What do Atlantic Salmons eat?Atlantic Salmons’ diet includes larvae (from aquatic insects), terrestrial insects, and marine organisms like zooplankton, and a wide array of fish like herring, capelin, mackerel, and smelts.

  • Atlantic salmon, also dubbed as the king of fish, can live in both fresh and saltwater.
  • The average weight of Atlantic salmon is about 8-12 pounds, but some can weigh up to 30 pounds.
  • The Atlantic salmon averages a length of about 28 inches.
  • It can be found in temperate marine coastal waters and freshwaters, especially in rivers and streams.

What Do Chinook Salmons Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Salmoniformes Salmonidae Oncorhynchus Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

What do chinook salmons eat?Young Chinook salmons feed on small crustaceans and insects. Adult Chinook salmons consume other fish species such as herring and sand lance.

  • The chinook salmon is considered to be the largest of all pacific salmon species.
  • chinook salmons can grow to a length of over 5 feet and a weight of 100 pounds.
  • This chinook salmon can be found in temperate marine waters and freshwater, especially from lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

What Do Pink Salmons Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Salmoniformes Salmonidae Oncorhynchus Oncorhynchus gorbuscha

What do pink salmons eat?Pink salmons feed on squid, small fish, zooplankton, and small crustaceans.

  • According to scientists, the pink salmon is the smallest of the Pacific salmon species whose numbers seem to be thriving.
  • Pink salmons’ habitats include coastal and fresh waters (lakes).

What Do Sockeye Salmons Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Salmoniformes Salmonidae Oncorhynchus Oncorhynchus nerka

What do sockeye salmons eat?Sockeye Salmons are omnivorous. They feed on riparian plants, fish, and aquatic insects.

  • The sockeye salmon is also known to as blueback or red salmon.
  • The sockeye salmon is one of the smallest of species in the Pacific.
  • They can be found in marine, and freshwater habitats (estuaries, lakes, and streams).

How do Salmons Hunt?

One technique that comes in handy for salmon when they are foraging for prey is suction feeding.

  • Salmon, like other fish species, use suction feeding to attack their prey and proceed to suck them in their mouths.
  • Following this predatory event, the salmon would then bite its live prey and further proceed to swallow.
  • Suction feeding in salmon is facilitated by a complex interaction between the bones and muscles of the head, which is a perspective of biomechanics.
  • Salmon also employ a sit-and-wait strategy during hunting. In this case, they wait for their prey before they launch an attack.

When do Salmons Eat?

Salmon display a shift between nocturnal and diurnal activity.

  • These organisms can easily detect their prey during the day compared to at night.
  • However, the risk of predation is higher during this time.
  • The need for growth drives juvenile salmon towards diurnal activity because they can easily find food during this time.

How often do Salmons Eat?

How often salmon eat depend on many factors. In the case of many salmon species like the pink salmon, and the Atlantic salmon, they do not eat before spawning.

What eats Salmon?

Different kinds of predators feed on salmon at varying stages of their lives.

  • Examples of these predators include some salmon species, other fish species, grizzly bears, polar bears, birds, snakes, whales, seals, dolphins, sea lions, and humans.

Where do Salmons fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Salmon play a significant role in the animal food chain.

  • In their role as prey, these organisms offer a good source of nutrient to a large number of organisms including the endangered orcas.
  • They also predate on many organisms which include but not limited to eels, squids, small fish, zooplankton and aquatic insects.
  • Because of this, salmon regulate the local population of these small organisms by preventing overpopulation.

In general, the existence of salmon in the animal food chain ensures the existence of a high-quality ecosystem.

On the downside, as their habitats are depleted and destroyed by activities like damming, salmon disappear, which implies a reduction in the quality of their ecosystem.

Cite this article as: "What Do Salmons Eat?," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, April 15, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-salmons-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “The Origin and Speciation of Oncorhynchus Revisited | SpringerLink”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Salmo salar: INFORMATION”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Atlantic Salmon – Protected | NOAA Fisheries”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Chinook Salmon | National Wildlife Federation”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Chinook salmon”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha: INFORMATION”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Pink Salmon | NOAA Fisheries”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Scientists warn of too many pink salmon in North Pacific” – Phys.org. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Pink Salmon Species Profile, Alaska Department of Fish and Game”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Sockeye Salmon” – National Geographic. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Sockeye Salmon Species Profile, Alaska Department of Fish and Game”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “How fish power suction feeding”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “State-dependent shifts between nocturnal and diurnal activity in salmon” – The Royal Society. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Pacific salmon” – Vancour Aquarium. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
  • “Pacific Salmon | Defenders of Wildlife”. Accessed August 15, 2019. Link.
What Do Salmons Eat?
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