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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 155:199-208 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps155199

Food resource utilization by juvenile Baltic cod Gadus morhua: a mechanism potentially influencing recruitment success at the demersal juvenile stage?

Hüssy K, St. John MA, Böttcher U

Pelagic and demersal juvenile Baltic cod Gadus morhua L. were collected during surveys in the Bornholm Basin (Baltic Sea) in autumn 1994. Stomach contents were examined for prey composition in order to evaluate the potential importance of the pelagic and demersal habitats for recruitment success. Juvenile cod less than 40 mm fed exclusively on pelagic prey such as copepods and cladocerans. Between 40 and 50 mm the juveniles began to consume benthic prey such as mysids and amphipods; however, copepods were still the dominant food organisms. Between 50 and 70 mm the dominant prey items consumed were mysids and amphipods, with copepods comprising a minor component of the diet. Between 70 and 160 mm the juveniles' diet was composed exclusively of benthic prey with an increase in prey diversity. Mysids were slightly less important in the diet, while the abundance of polychaetes, decapods and fish increased with fish size. Amphipods remained almost constant in the diet of juveniles above 60 mm in length. These results indicate that a major change in food resource utilization started to occur at a fish length of 40 mm, with the main change taking place at approximately 50 mm, suggesting that juvenile Baltic cod make the transition to the benthic habitat at this length. This change in food preference is also reflected in the size of the prey items and the numbers of prey consumed. Pelagic juveniles consumed much smaller prey than their demersal conspecifics. Neither prey size nor prey numbers consumed by pelagic and small demersal juveniles from this study differed from prey reported to be taken by juvenile cod of corresponding size in the Atlantic and the North Sea. However, prey organisms consumed by demersal juvenile Baltic cod larger than 90 mm were much smaller, and prey numbers much higher, than those reported to be consumed by juveniles in other areas. The apparent overlap in food resource utilization among the different size groups of demersal juveniles observed in this study suggests that in years with low prey abundance, or high abundance of pelagic juveniles, strong intra-specific competition for food resources may affect the recruitment success of Baltic cod.

Pelagic and demersal juvenile cod · Food resource utilization · Settlement · Baltic Sea

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