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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 417:127-138 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08799

Spatial and temporal variations in the diet of the mysid Mesopodopsis africana in the St. Lucia Estuary (South Africa)

Nicola K. Carrasco*, Renzo Perissinotto

School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban 4000, P. Bag X 5 4001, South Africa

ABSTRACT: This study presents one of the few known examples where a mysid species has been observed modifying its diet rapidly and under natural conditions in response to environmental changes. Mesopodopsis africana is a dominant mysid in many estuaries along the east coast of South Africa, and a key species in the St. Lucia Estuary, Africa’s largest estuarine lake. St. Lucia is currently undergoing severe desiccation owing to freshwater deprivation. Lack of freshwater input has dampened the effect of temporal variations, while different regions have become more spatially heterogeneous. The mixed model SIAR v 4.0 (stable isotope analysis in R) was used to determine the likely contribution of each of the available carbon sources to the diet of M. africana. The copepod Pseudodiaptomus stuhlmanni made a significant contribution to M. africana’s diet in the Mouth region. At Catalina Bay, mysids mostly utilized particulate organic matter (POM), while at Charters Creek they were most closely associated with the macroalga Cladophora sp. The sensitivity of Charters Creek to drought effects is emphasized here, as well as the important role M. africana plays in this habitat as an omnivore, increasing the connectance and, hence, sustaining its food web. While the Mouth and Narrows are partly protected from drought effects, the northern lakes have experienced further increases in salinity during the past decade, forcing the periodical exclusion of this mysid from much of the system. This has lead to severe effects on the food webs that the mysid supports under normal conditions.


KEY WORDS: Stable isotopes · South Africa · iSimangaliso Wetland Park · Trophic relations · Key species


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Cite this article as: Carrasco NK, Perissinotto R (2010) Spatial and temporal variations in the diet of the mysid Mesopodopsis africana in the St. Lucia Estuary (South Africa). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 417:127-138. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps08799

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