Stomach contents of the Antarctic Silverfish Pleuragramma antarcticum from the southern and eastern Weddell Sea (Antarctica)
- Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polarforschung, Columbus-Center, D-2850, Bremerhaven, Germany
The stomach contents of 142 Pleuragramma antarcticum from the southernmost part of the Weddell Sea (Gould Bay: 77°19?S) and from the eastern coast (72°–74°S) were analyzed. The fish were collected in February 1983 and stored frozen. Size range of the investigated specimens was from 6.4 cm SL (7.3 cm TL) to 21.9 cm SL (24.1 cm TL). The fish were caught by bottom trawl (Gould Bay) and Agassiz Trawl and pelagic RMT-m net in the upper 300 m layer at the eastern coast, respectively. Thirty-six stomachs were empty or contained sand only. The most important prey in terms of biomass were euphausiids, which occurred in 49 stomachs at a mean number of 2. Their dry weight was estimated to be 15–50 times that of the next important food items, which were copepods, gastropods and gammarids. Krill (Euphausia superba) constituted up to 14% of the euphausiids in the diet of fish caught in the eastern Weddell Sea. The rest was usually made up by Euphausia crystallorophias. This species was taken with preference even when the abundance of E. superba in accompanying plankton catches was 16 times higher. In the Gould Bay, gastropods were frequently eaten despite high numbers of copepods in the plankton, whereas in the eastern Weddell Sea, copepods were abundant both in plankton and in the stomach content. The almost complete absence of the early stages of fish in the diet of Pleuragramma antarcticum in the southern and eastern Weddell Sea is due to a pronounced vertical segregation of fish of different sizes. This distribution pattern is thought to be an adaptive mechanism to avoid intraspecific predation, as 90% of the ichthyoplankton in that area is Pleuragramma antarcticum.
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