MEPS 241:41-55 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps241041

Trophic relationships in a Mediterranean deep-sea fish community: partition of food resources, dietary overlap and connections within the benthic boundary layer

Maite Carrassón1,*, Joan E. Cartes2

1Departamenteo Biología Animal, Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, Spain
2Centre Mediterrani d¹Investigacions Marines I Ambientals, CSIC, Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 37-49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

ABSTRACT: Food resource partitioning and some trends in the feeding ecology of 13 species of fishes inhabiting the slope of the Catalan Sea (western Mediterranean) were examined. Specimens were collected from 1987 to 1991, using bottom trawls at depths between 1000 and 2250 m. Prey selection was also examined in relation to data collected in the same area on 2 potential prey compartments for fish, the benthopelagic macrofauna‹suprabenthos or hyperbenthos‹and the megafaunal decapod crustaceans. Thus, the possible connections with prey availability within the benthic boundary layer (BBL) were also analysed. The size of available food resources was the most important factor responsible for food resource partitioning, both by depth stratum and season. The importance of the variable predator size is also evidenced. Most of the deep-sea demersal fish species inhabiting the Catalano-Balearic slope often consumed a variety of available resources in their diets, mainly comprising suprabenthos, but also infauna or planktonic prey. Thus, the BBL macrofauna constitute an important part of the available food exploited, with the range of the prey consumed increasing for the largest predators. A significant trend to increase dietary H¹ values within the depth interval where each species attained its maximum abundance was observed. Some (positive) prey selection upon certain prey groups was detected depending on the fish species: sharks, Alepocephalus rostratus and Nettastoma melanurum preferentially preyed on decapods, siphonophores and pyrosomids; Polyacanthonotus rissoanus, macrourids, Lepidion lepidion and Cataetyx alleni preyed upon suprabenthic peracarid crustaceans; and only Bathypterois mediterraneus preferentially consumed copepods, the numerically dominant group in the bathyal BBL. Resource partitioning was high among the fish assemblage analysed in relation to the generally low dietary overlap values recorded. Overall, dietary overlap values among fish species decreased with increasing depth.

KEY WORDS: Resource partitioning · Dietary overlap · Interaction prey-predator · Deep sea ecology · Western Mediterranean

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