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Food partitioning and diet temporal variation in two coexisting sparids, Pagellus erythrinus and Pagellus acarne

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Resource partitioning in two congeneric sparids, pandora Pagellus erythrinus and axillary seabream Pagellus acarne, was investigated using stomach content analysis integrated with data on stable isotopes (15N and 13C). The study was carried out on coastal muddy bottoms in the Gulf of Castellammare (southern Tyrrhenian Sea, western Mediterranean Sea) in seasons (autumn, November 2004; winter, March 2005; spring, early June 2005), at depths between 50 and 100 m. Stomach content analysis suggested low trophic niche overlap between the two species. Pagellus erythrinus mainly preyed on strictly benthic organisms (polychaetes, brachyuran crabs and benthic crustaceans). Although it consumed benthic prey, P. acarne preferred suprabenthic prey such as peracarid crustaceans from the benthic boundary layer a few metres above the bottom. The two species showed different isotopic values, with P. erythrinus exhibiting higher 15N and more enriched 13C than P. acarne, in accordance with its marked benthic behaviour and high predation on carnivore polychaetes. Significant temporal variability in both diet and isotopic values caused trophic differences between the two species. The autumn and winter diet differed from the spring diet and the trophic levels of both species increased from autumn and winter to spring, in accordance with variations in food availability and changes in prey 15N and 13C. These temporal variations may be linked to an increase in energy requirements for reproduction, together with the differing availability of preferred prey throughout the year. Significantly, lower 13C was recorded in fishes collected in winter (March), suggesting the influence of river inputs as a source of particulate organic matter in this zone after the flooding season. In conclusion, these sympatric congeneric fish species displayed clear food partitioning throughout the temporal scale analysed.
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Keywords: resource partitioning; stable isotopes; stomach contents; temporal variability

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: CNR-IAMC Via G. da Verrazzano, 17 – 91014, Castellammare del Golfo (TP), Italy 2: ISPRA Lab. of Milazzo Via dei Mille, 44 – 98057, Milazzo (ME), Italy

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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