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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 406:239-250 (2010)  -  DOI:

Stability in the feeding ecology of four demersal fish predators in the US Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem

Carrie J. Byron1,*, Jason S. Link2

1Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881, USA
2National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Evidence of species interactions are generally well understood over broad temporal and spatial scales, particularly for commercially valuable species. Yet species that are not as commercially valuable may nonetheless be ecologically important in stabilizing trophic interactions in large marine ecosystems. We examined the diets for 4 of these demersal fish species: black sea bass Centropristis striata, scup Stenotomus chrysops, Northern searobin Prionotus carolinus, and striped searobin P. evolans. We examined food habits data across size class, season, 5 yr time block, and geographic region to evaluate the major determinants of diet composition. We used multivariate statistics, specifically canonical correspondence analysis, as the primary method to explore diet determinants. Our results showed that the scup and 2 searobin species are primarily benthivorous, whereas black sea bass notably shifts towards piscivory with ontogeny. Our results also showed that the diet of these predators was mainly influenced by size class, region, and (to a lesser extent) season, whereas 5 yr time block did not notably influence diet composition, a surprising observation given the welldocumented changes to benthic habitat in this ecosystem. These results suggest that these species feed opportunistically in proportion to the relative abundance of available prey given the constraints of their morphology, which implies that despite notable impacts to benthic habitat, the prey field for these understudied species has been consistent (within seasonal variation) over the past 3 decades. Stable feeding dynamics such as these may act to enhance resilience in large marine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Black sea bass · Scup · Northern searobin · Striped searobin · Benthic · Ontogenetic shifts · Northwest Atlantic · Canonical correspondence analysis

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Cite this article as: Byron CJ, Link JS (2010) Stability in the feeding ecology of four demersal fish predators in the US Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 406:239-250.

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