MEPS 125:13-19 (1995)  -  doi:10.3354/meps125013

Subtropical Australian juvenile fish eat meiofauna: experiments with winter whiting Sillago maculata and observations on other species

Coull BC, Greenwood JG, Fielder DR, Coull BA

Meiofauna are known to be trophically integrated into estuarine food webs in temperate regions primarily as food for bottom-feeding juvenile fishes. In subtropical/tropical mangrove- dominated estuaries there were few data indicating juvenile fish utilized meiofauna for food. After determining several fishes that ate meiofauna in southeastern Queensland, Australia, juvenile winter whiting Sillago maculata were allowed to feed on natural mud-dwelling meiofaunal communities in microcosms. Six juvenile whiting (21 to 38 mm) significantly reduced both the nematode and copepod populations in the feeding microcosms and ate a mean of 177 nematodes and 65 copepods fish-1 h-1. This feeding rate, if continued 4 times a day, is sufficient to provide an adequate daily ration for the whiting (based on estimates from similarly feeding North American juvenile fish). Of the available copepods the whiting ate significantly more Brianola sp., Canuellidae sp. and Ectinosoma sp. than would have been expected by chance. They did not select Stenhelia (D.) sp., probably because it burrowed beyond the bite depth of the whiting. Whiting are an economically important fish in the Indo-Pacific and they require meiofauna in their diet during the juvenile stages. They obtain this meiofauna from mangrove-derived detrital muds; in an aquaculture setting they would probably need to be fed meiofauna.

Meiofauna . Fish feeding . Copepods . Selectivity . Mud . Mangroves . Queensland . Australia

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