Anchovy boom and bust linked to trophic shifts in larval diet

Rasmus Swalethorp*, Michael R. Landry, Brice X. Semmens, Mark D. Ohman, Lihini Aluwihare, Dereka Chargualaf, Andrew R. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Although massive biomass fluctuations of coastal-pelagic fishes are an iconic example of the impacts of climate variability on marine ecosystems, the mechanisms governing these dynamics are often elusive. We construct a 45-year record of nitrogen stable isotopes measured in larvae of Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax) in the California Current Ecosystem to assess patterns in food chain length. Larval trophic efficiency associated with a shortened food chain increased larval survival and produced boom periods of high adult biomass. In contrast, when larval food chain length increased, and energy transfer efficiency decreased, the population crashed. We propose the Trophic Efficiency in Early Life (TEEL) hypothesis, which states that larval fishes must consume prey that confer sufficient energy for survival, to help explain natural boom-bust dynamics of coastal pelagic fishes. Our findings illustrate a potential for trophic indicators to generally inform larval survival and adult population dynamics of coastal-pelagic fishes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7412
JournalNature Communications
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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