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Dietary variations within a family of ambush predators (Platycephalidae) occupying different habitats and environments in the same geographical region

Coulson, P.G., Platell, M.E., Clarke, K.R. and Potter, I.C. (2015) Dietary variations within a family of ambush predators (Platycephalidae) occupying different habitats and environments in the same geographical region. Journal of Fish Biology, 86 (3). pp. 1046-1077.

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This study has determined the extents and basis for variations in the composition of the prey ingested by the abundant species of a family highly adapted for ambush predation, i.e. Platycephalidae, in a region (south-western Australia) where that family is found in different habitats and environments. Dietary data were thus collected for Leviprora inops and Platycephalus laevigatus from seagrass in marine embayments and for Platycephalus westraliae from over sand in an estuary. These were then collated with those recorded previously for Platycephalus speculator from over sand and in seagrass in an estuary and for Platycephalus longispinis from over sand in coastal marine waters. While crustaceans and teleosts together dominated the diet of all five species, their percentage volumetric dietary contributions varied greatly, with those of crustaceans ranging from 7% for L. inops to 65% for P. speculator and those of teleosts ranging from 29% for P. longispinis to 91% for L. inops. For analyses, the data were separated into two sets. The first comprised the 17 dietary categories of invertebrates and all identified and unidentified teleosts collectively, while the second consisted of the 23 identified teleost families, both of which were subjected to permutational analysis of variance (PERMANOVA), analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) and a new (two-way) version of the RELATE procedure. The diets of three species changed seasonally, when using invertebrate dietary categories and teleosts collectively, but with only one species, when employing identified teleost families, probably reflecting a greater tendency for invertebrate than teleost prey abundance to change during the year. On the basis of dietary data for invertebrate taxa+teleosts collectively, the diets of three of the five species changed serially with body size, with a fourth species feeding, throughout life, predominantly on the carid Palaemonetes australis. Based on identified teleost families, the diets of the three species that fed predominantly on teleosts underwent serial size-related changes. Although L. inops and the co-occurring P. laevigatus both consume large volumes of teleosts, the former ingests larger, less demersal and more mobile prey, e.g. the labrids Haletta semifasciata and Neoodax balteatus, than the latter, e.g. the scorpaenid Gymnapistes marmoratus, reflecting the possession by L. inops of a far longer head and larger buccal cavity. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the large differences in the volumes of crustaceans and teleosts consumed by each platycephalid species are related to differences in the relative availability of these prey in the different habitats or environments of each species.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
Copyright: © 2015 The Fisheries Society of the British Isles
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