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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 655:107-121 (2020)  -  DOI:

From feeding habits to food webs: exploring the diet of an opportunistic benthic generalist

A. L. van der Reis1,*, A. G. Jeffs1,2, S. D. Lavery1,2

1Institute of Marine Science, University of Auckland, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
2School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Deep-sea benthic ecosystems are difficult to study, particularly when trying to clarify diet and trophic relationships. New Zealand scampi Metanephrops challengeri are endemic, commercially prized deep-sea lobsters that are bottom trawled. These lobsters are typically the dominant mobile megafaunal species in the deep-sea benthic habitat, and their burrowing behaviour plays an important role in bioturbation of seafloor habitats. DNA metabarcoding was undertaken on the gut contents of 66 scampi from 4 fishery management areas using COI and 18S rRNA markers to better understand their feeding habits and trophic role. Scampi were confirmed to be opportunistic benthic scavengers, with the gut samples containing over 150 species, ranging from small (e.g. alveolates) to large eukaryotes (e.g. fish). The main dietary components consisted of crabs and prawns, but also included macroalgae and fish. Significant differences were found among scampi gut contents when comparing season and geographic region, but not when comparing sex and size. Due to their generalist scavenging nature, scampi play an important role in the deep-sea benthic ecosystems and are natural benthic samplers that are well suited to being used as deep-sea ecosystem/biodiversity monitors.

KEY WORDS: DNA metabarcoding · Diet · Benthic generalist · Deep sea · Food web · Metanephrops challengeri · Fisheries · Biomonitoring

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Cite this article as: van der Reis AL, Jeffs AG, Lavery SD (2020) From feeding habits to food webs: exploring the diet of an opportunistic benthic generalist. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 655:107-121.

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