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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13511

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

A. L. van der Reis*, A. G. Jeffs, S. D. Lavery

*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, is an endemic commercially-prized deep sea lobster that is 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 content of 66 scampi from four 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 content 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.