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A long-lived, estuarine-resident fish species selects its macroinvertebrate food source based on certain prey and predator traits

Potter, I.C., Kanandjembo, A-R, Cottingham, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-4157-1972, Rose, T.H., Linke, T.E. and Platell, M.E. (2022) A long-lived, estuarine-resident fish species selects its macroinvertebrate food source based on certain prey and predator traits. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 264 . Art. 107691.

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This study has explored the extent to which the predominant faunal component of the diet (benthic macroinvertebrates) of the large, long-lived estuarine-resident Acanthopagrus butcheri is related to particular prey and predator traits. Focus is placed on the location (infaunal vs epifaunal) and species size category (small vs medium vs large) of the prey and feeding behaviour of A. butcheri. Data on the benthic macroinvertebrates in the stomach contents of A. butcheri in a microtidal estuary (Swan-Canning, Western Australia) are compared with those of macroinvertebrates sampled in the benthos at the same sites and times in eight consecutive seasons using an Ekman grab. The eight most abundant small macroinvertebrate species in the benthic samples were infaunal and, apart from the bivalve Arthritica semen that was ingested by only a few fish, were not fed on by A. butcheri. In contrast, the three most abundant medium and large-sized species in the benthos, the epifaunal bivalves Xenostrobus securis and Fluviolanatus subtortus and infaunal nereidid polychaete Simplisetia aequisetis, were preyed on substantially, with the first ingested by 54% of A. butcheri and contributing over 51% to dietary volume. Although the eunicid polychaete Marphysa sanguinea occurred in only 7% of benthic samples and contributed <0.1% to abundance, this large infaunal species ranked second in contribution to dietary volume (12%). This species and S. aequisetis were preyed on when they emerged in part or wholly above the substrata. The above results imply that, in terms of prey, A. butcheri selects predominantly medium and large epifaunal macroinvertebrate species and those medium to large infaunal polychaetes which, at times, move out of the substrata. This reflects non-emergent infauna being present in essentially all benthic samples and contributing 66% to total abundance, whereas this group was found in only 8% of stomach samples of A. butcheri and contributed only 2% to dietary volume. In contrast, emergent infauna and epifauna contributed 12 and 22%, respectively, to abundance in the benthos, but as much as 22 and 75%, respectively, to the diets of A. butcheri. It is concluded that the marked selectivity of A. butcheri for prey was related to certain prey and predator traits, i.e. size category of prey species, and prey located above the substrata, either permanently or at frequent intervals, and to visual acuity and a fast-swimming angled attack by the predator.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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