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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 541:45-64 (2015)  -  DOI:

Predatory impact of the myctophid fish community on zooplankton in the Scotia Sea (Southern Ocean)

Ryan A. Saunders1,*, Martin A. Collins2, Peter Ward1, Gabriele Stowasser1, Simeon L. Hill1, Rachael Shreeve1, Geraint A. Tarling1

1British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
2Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Government House, Stanley, Falkland Islands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Myctophids are the most abundant mesopelagic fishes in the Southern Ocean, although their trophic role within the predominantly krill-based food web in regions south of the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) is poorly resolved. This study therefore examined the diets of 10 species of myctophid fishes: Electrona antarctica, E. carlsbergi, Gymnoscopelus braueri, G. fraseri, G. nicholsi, Krefftichthys anderssoni, Protomyctophum bolini, P. tenisoni, P. choriodon and Nannobrachium achirus, in the Scotia Sea, together with their predatory impact on the underlying zooplankton community. Myctophids and their prey were sampled in different seasons by scientific nets deployed across the Scotia Sea from the sea-ice zone to the APF. Based on the percentage index of relative importance, myctophids had high overlap in their diets, although the data indicate dietary specialisation in some species. There was also a distinct switch in diet, from copepods to euphausiids and amphipods, with increasing myctophid size. Myctophid predation impacted daily copepod production by between 0.01 and 5%, with Calanus simillimus being most impacted. Total annual consumption of copepods was around 1.5 million t (Mt) per year. All myctophids preyed upon the euphausiid Thysanoessa spp., consuming ~12% of its daily productivity and around 4 Mt per year. However, only larger myctophid species preyed upon Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, consuming 2% of its daily productivity, which could amount to as much as 17 Mt per year. Themisto gaudichaudii was also an important dietary component, with 4% of its daily productivity being consumed, amounting to around 2 Mt per year. This study demonstrates that myctophids link secondary productivity to higher predators both through krill-dependent and krill-independent trophic pathways.

KEY WORDS: Myctophidae · Predation rates · Feeding ecology · Scotia Sea · Southern Ocean

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Cite this article as: Saunders RA, Collins MA, Ward P, Stowasser G, Hill SL, Shreeve R, Tarling GA (2015) Predatory impact of the myctophid fish community on zooplankton in the Scotia Sea (Southern Ocean). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 541:45-64.

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