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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Demersal fish predators of gelatinous zooplankton in the Northeast Pacific Ocean

Richard D. Brodeur*, Troy W. Buckley, Geoffrey M. Lang, Douglas L. Draper, John C. Buchanan, Richard E. Hibpshman

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Historically, gelatious zooplankton have been considered important consumers or predators in marine food webs but more recently, they have also been recognized as important prey for many marine species. Here, we summarize data obtained from > 100 Northeast Pacific fish predators based on extensive gut content analsysis (~450,000 stomachs examined) from broad-scale demersal trawl surveys ranging from the Bering Sea to Southern California. In the Bering Sea, we identified 27 predators on jellyfish and 23 on urochordates. In the Aleutian Islands, 14 and 18 predators were identified, respectively, and for the Gulf of Alaska, a total of 23 and 32 such predators were documented. Off the West Coast of the contiguous US, we identifed 16 coelenterate predators and 7 urochordate predators. Many of these predators were not previously known to prey on gelatinous zooplankton. Dominant consumers of coelenterates include prowfish, rockfishes, walleye pollock, sablefish, and grenadiers, and primary consumers of urochordates included rockfishes, atka mackerel, and sablefish. Pronounced seasonal and interannual variability in gelatinous taxa occurrence was observed in several dominant fish predators. The occurrence of jellyfish prey was generally much higher in diets of fishes examined fresh at sea when compared with diets of the same species examined in the laboratory following preservation. Differences in occurrence were less pronounced with the more durable urochordate prey. We suggest that many existing estimates of predation on easily dissolved gelatinous prey may underestimate the true predation rate and the importance of these organisms in marine food webs.