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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 653:153-166 (2020)  -  DOI:

Only a few key prey species fuel a temperate coastal fish food web

Suzanne S. H. Poiesz1,2,*, Johannes IJ. Witte1, Henk W. van der Veer1

1NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems, and Utrecht University, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg Texel, The Netherlands
2Faculty of Science and Engineering, Groningen Institute of Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, 9700 CC Groningen, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The food web structure of a coastal fish community (western Dutch Wadden Sea) was studied based on stomach content data from samples collected between 2010 and 2018. In total, 54 fish species were caught and 72 different prey items were identified. Fish species consumed from only a few up to >30 different prey species, suggesting the presence of both opportunistic and more specialized feeders. We found no significant differences between years or switches in food source with fish size. The trophic positions of the Wadden Sea fish community ranged from 2.0 to 4.7, with most trophic positions above 3.0. In the past, (near)-resident species were the most abundant guild in spring, and juvenile marine migrants in autumn. At present, all guilds are present in similar but low abundances. The (near)-resident community consisted of about 20 species that fed primarily on amphipod crustaceans, brown shrimps and juvenile herring. There was only a slight overlap in diet with the group of juvenile marine migrants (5 species of juvenile flatfishes and clupeids), whose preferred prey were copepods, polychaetes and brown shrimps. About 15 species of marine seasonal visitors showed an overlap in diet with both the (near)-resident and the juvenile marine migrants, especially for brown shrimps and to a lesser extent herring and gobies. Our results illustrate (1) the pivotal position of a few key prey species (amphipod crustaceans, brown shrimps, juvenile herring and gobies) for the coastal Wadden Sea fishes and (2) that the substantial prey overlap in the diet of some predators cannot exclude intra- and inter-specific competition among these predators.

KEY WORDS: Food web structure · Wadden Sea · Stomach content analysis · Fish community · Trophic position · Predator-prey interactions

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Cite this article as: Poiesz SSH, Witte JIJ, van der Veer HW (2020) Only a few key prey species fuel a temperate coastal fish food web. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 653:153-166.

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