Bias in estimating food consumption of fish from stomach-content analysis

Anna Rindorf, Peter Lewy

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This study presents an analysis of the bias introduced by using simplified methods to calculate food intake of fish from stomach contents. Three sources of bias were considered: (1) the effect of estimating consumption based on a limited number of stomach samples, (2) the effect of using average contents derived from pooled stomach samples rather than individual stomachs, and (3) the effect of ignoring biological factors that affect the evacuation of prey. Estimating consumption from only two stomach samples yielded results close to the actual intake rate in a simulation study. In contrast to this, a serious positive bias was introduced by estimating food intake from the contents of pooled stomach samples. An expression is given that can be used to correct analytically for this bias. A new method, which takes into account the distribution and evacuation of individual prey types as well as the effect of other food in the stomach on evacuation, is suggested for estimating the intake of separate prey types. Simplifying the estimation by ignoring these factors biased estimates of consumption of individual prey types by up to 150% in a data example.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2487-2498
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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