Prey size spectra and prey availability of larval and small juvenile cod

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The aim of the present study is to describe the prey preference characteristics of cod larvae and assess preference variability in relation to species and size composition of copepod prey. A further aim is to examine the hypothesis that dietary prey size spectra remain the same during the larval stage when viewed on a relative predator/prey size scale. The study is based on stomach analysis of larval/juvenile cod in the size range 10-35 mm from nursery grounds in the North Sea. Stomach contents (species, size) were compared to environmental composition and preference indices were calculated. Prey size spectra had the expected relationship to larval cod size, and preference for given copepod species could be ascribed to their relative size; Additional species-specific preferences were evident, for example the larger Pseudocalanus and the larger Calanus spp. were highly preferred. Available prey biomass was highest in the areas of a hydrographic front, where larvae have been shown to concentrate. Changes in prey availability with larval growth depend strongly on specific prey biomass spectra at a given location. Both increasing and decreasing prey availability al increasing larval size were indicated, dependent on location. The findings illustrate the usefulness of coupling dietary prey size spectra and biomass spectra of available prey sizes during studies of ichthyoplankton feeding ecology. (C) 1997 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Fish Biology
Issue numbersA
Pages (from-to)340-351
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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