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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 249:265-276 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps249265

Diel feeding pattern of whiting in the North Sea

Anna Rindorf*

University of Copenhagen, Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Charlottenlund Castle, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark

ABSTRACT: Though numerous studies have analysed the feeding periodicity of North Sea gadoids, no general diel pattern has been found. The lack of agreement between studies may be related to differences in prey composition and behaviour, but it has not been attempted to link the diel intake pattern directly to intake of individual prey. This study presents an analysis of the round the clock occurrence of several prey types in the stomachs of whiting Merlangius merlangus, a major predator on fish and crustaceans in the North Sea. Generalised linear models were used to determine if the occurrence of different prey varied significantly with time of day and whether this diel pattern differed between locations and predator size groups. The results show that the occurrence of bottom dwelling prey increased significantly during the night at 4 of 5 locations. In contrast, free swimming prey and prey migrating towards the demersal layer during the day were eaten mainly in the daylight hours. No diel pattern in the presence of larger fish prey could be found, presumably due to their longer digestion time. A general diel pattern in catch rates of the predator could not be detected and the analyses did not appear to be biased by vertical migration of the predator. The results have important implications for the understanding of prey selection by wild predators, as this is, in effect, a choice between temporally co-occurring prey.

KEY WORDS: Diel variation · Prey availability · Prey selection · Diet composition

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