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Feeding ecology of pelagic fish species in the Gulf of Riga (Baltic Sea): the importance of changes in the zooplankton community

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The feeding ecology of four pelagic fish species was studied in relation to their prey availability in the Gulf of Riga (Baltic Sea) during the summer 1999–2006. The zooplankton community was dominated by the cladoceran Bosmina longispina, rotifers Keratella cochlearis and K. quadrata and the copepod Eurytemora affinis, with the highest interannual variability in abundance recorded for B. longispina. The last influenced the diet of adult sprat Sprattus sprattus, juvenile smelt Osmerus eperlanus and three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus as these were strongly selecting for B. longispina. The fish feeding activity did not match the abundance dynamics of their preferred prey, suggesting that fishes may switch to consume other prey in case the preferred diet was limited. A considerable dietary overlap indicated high potential competition between pelagic fish species. While herring Clupea harengus membras and G. aculeatus were relying on very different food, the diets of young O. eperlanus and G. aculeatus were very similar. Interannual variability in zooplankton composition and abundance significantly affected the diet composition of fishes, but those changes were insufficient to exert a consistent influence upon fish feeding activity and total amounts of zooplankton consumed.
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Keywords: annual-scale dynamics; dietary characteristics; herring; smelt; sprat; three-spined stickleback

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu, Lootsi 2a, 80012 Pärnu, Estonia 2: Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu, Mäealuse 14, 12618 Tallinn, Estonia 3: Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, University of Hamburg, Grosse Elbestrasse 133, Hamburg D-22767, Germany

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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