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The trophic ecology of Atlantic cod: insights from tri-monthly, localized scales of sampling

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The meso-scale trophic dynamics of cod Gadus morhua were examined based upon tri-monthly stomach sample collections from a nearshore, localized (c. 800 km2) region off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The major objective for this work was to relate any changes in cod diet and amount of food eaten to seasonal variations in prey availability, water temperature and spawning at a spatial scale between broad-scale and laboratory studies. Results suggested that the type and amount of food eaten by cod was generally consistent throughout a year and repeatable across years. Cod feeding was marked by two periods of increased feeding, corresponding to the arrival of small pelagic fishes in the area. This pelagic migration and subsequent increased feeding by cod occurred during important periods in the life history of cod (e.g. spawning and overwintering). Similar annual patterns in food consumption and diet composition were remarkably consistent over the 2ยท5 years of the project, suggesting important feeding periods for cod that correspond to environmental and biological events. The diet of cod was composed primarily of several species of forage fishes [e.g. herrings (predominantly Atlantic herring Clupea harengus), sand lance Ammodytes sp. and Atlantic mackerel Scomber scombrus], ophiuroids, Cancer sp. crabs and other small crustaceans. It was inferred that cod exhibited a maintenance diet on local forage fishes and benthic macroinvertebrates, augmenting their diet by seasonally gorge feeding upon migrating pelagic species.
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Keywords: Gadus morhua; bioenergetics; gorge feeding; meso-scales; prey field; trophic dynamics

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: 134 Pleasant Street, South Chatham, MA 02659, U.S.A. 2: Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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