MEPS 392:193-209 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08214

Diet of Engraulis encrasicolus in the northern Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean): ontogenetic changes and feeding selectivity

D. Borme1, V. Tirelli1,*, S. B. Brandt2, S. Fonda Umani3, E. Arneri4

1OGS, Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale, Dipartimento di Oceanografia Biologica, Via A. Piccard 54, 34014 S. Croce, Trieste, Italy
2Oregon Sea Grant Program, Oregon State University, 322 Kerr Administration Building, Corvallis, Oregon 97331-2131, USA
3Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, via Valerio 28/A, 34143 Trieste, Italy
4CNR-ISMAR, Sezione Pesca Marittima Largo Fiera della Pesca, 60125 Ancona, Italy
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Ontogenetic variation in the diet of Engraulis encrasicolus (L.) was examined in the northern Adriatic Sea, off the River Po delta, by stomach contents analysis. Anchovy (10 to 130 mm total length) were collected during a 1 wk cruise in October 2002. Feeding activity was mainly diurnal in all the length classes: stomach fullness, calculated for each 10 mm size class, was always higher during the day than at night, with maximal values measured for the 40 to 49 and 50 to 59 mm size classes. All analysed life stages of E. encrasicolus had a strictly zooplanktivorous diet based on a few species of copepods. The principal prey of E. encrasicolus were small-sized copepods, measuring about 0.2 to 0.3 or 0.5 to 0.6 mm in prosoma length. The copepods Euterpina acutifrons and Oncaea spp. dominated anchovy diet during the day, both in terms of frequency, number and biomass, in all anchovy size classes. During the night, bivalve larvae were also important dietary items, with Oncaea spp. and E. acutifrons making up >69% of total prey number for all anchovy size classes. Within the considered size range, the dimensions of particles does not seem to be a limiting factor in food selection, and no relationship was found between anchovy length and the maximal dimension of ingested prey. Ivlev’s electivity index confirmed that European anchovy was able to select specific food items and preferred small copepods such as E. acutifrons and Oncaea spp., and bivalve and decapod larvae.

KEY WORDS: Anchovy · Late larvae · Stomach contents · Prey selection · Zooplankton

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Cite this article as: Borme D, Tirelli V, Brandt SB, Fonda Umani S, Arneri E (2009) Diet of Engraulis encrasicolus in the northern Adriatic S