Haplochromis (=Cyrtocara) livingstoni, one of the predatory cichlids of
the sand community of Lake Malawi, Africa, occurs at a density of 1.3 individuals per hectare.
They are territorial, defending areas 15 m wide by 40 m long along the interface of sand and
Vallisneria weed beds. Individuals use a 'death feigning' hunting pattern to capture
prey. From a position of lying on their sides semiburied in the sand, these fish attack small
cichlids. During four hours of SCUBA observations three successful attacks from this position
were seen. After an attack the small cichlids scatter and the predator moves on toward a new
aggregation of fish where it again plays dead. Individuals feign death an average of seven
times per thirty minutes watch. Death feigning behavior is initiated in two ways. The fish
either 1) is stationary with its ventral surface on or close to the sand, and then falls onto
its side, or 2) drops from the water colum [sic] into 'lying on side' position. The initial
behavioral actions of the latter method are similar to chafing behavior. But instead of
chafing the sand and rising again off the bottom, the fish plows into the sand and remains
immobile. These data further add to the evidence that cichlids are remarkably flexible in
their feeding behavior.