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Structure and distribution of the slope fish community in the vicinity of the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Archipelago

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Demersal fish community structure, distribution and trophic relationships on the slope (depth range 200–1500 m) of the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands and surrounding sea rises were investigated during a pilot survey conducted in April 2001 onboard fishing vessel MV Iris. A total of 56 fish taxa were collected during the survey, of which 44 were identified to the species level, seven to the genus level and five to the family level. Among the identified taxa, 36 constituted new records for the area investigated. Total catch per unit effort (cpue) during the survey ranged from 1·1 to 241·2 individuals h−1. Both average fish diversity and total cpue positively correlated with trawling depth. Overall, mean sampling depth and near-bottom temperature explained 56% of total fish cpue. Hierarchal cluster analysis identified three distinct fish assemblages with pronounced dominant species. Major shifts in fish community composition occurred at 500–600 m and 800–900 m depth strata and could probably be a result of physical and biological vertical zonation. Analysis of the diet of selected fish species showed that they were generalist feeders, consuming predominantly pelagic, including epipelagic, meso- and benthopelagic, prey. Diets of six species and nitrogen stable isotope signatures of 22 species revealed that with a few exceptions most fishes occupied the fourth trophic level and were tertiary consumers. Wide variability in carbon isotopic signatures is discussed with respect to alternative, e.g. possible importance of high Antarctic and chemoautotrophic v. photoautotrophic sub-Antarctic primary production, organic matter sources at the base of deep-sea food webs.
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Keywords: community; demersal fishes; feeding; stable isotopes; sub-Antarctic

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Zoology Department, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Fort Hare, Private Bag X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa 2: Coastal Research Group, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, P. O. Box 94, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa 3: Marine and Coastal Management, Private Bag X2, Rogge Bay 8012, South Africa

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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