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Dining hall at sea: feeding migrations of nektonic predators to the eastern Patagonian Shelf

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Seasonal changes in relative abundance and biomass of nektonic predators were analysed on the eastern Patagonian Shelf and continental slope; one of the most productive large marine ecosystems of the southern hemisphere. Several migratory types were revealed for species belonging to either temperate or sub‐Antarctic faunas. Despite high productivity, only a few large nektonic predators spend their entire life cycle on the eastern Patagonian Shelf and use only a small proportion of the meso‐nektonic resource. Most of the resource is exploited by non‐resident nektonic migrants, which move to the area from distant spawning grounds. Pelagic and demersal sharks and skates, the squid Illex argentinus, tunas and gadoids migrate to the eastern part of the Patagonian Shelf to feed at different times of the year; arriving in seasonal waves according to their life cycle and spawning seasonality. Some deepwater fishes and squid migrate onto the shelf as juveniles to harvest the resource, and then return to deepwater habitat as adults. It is hypothesized that the large biomass of meso‐planktonic and meso‐nektonic consumers prevents most higher‐trophic level predators from establishing spawning populations in this area, as their larvae and fry would be overwhelmed by predation. Instead, the higher‐trophic level predators establish spawning and nursery grounds elsewhere and arrive to feed on the meso‐planktonic and meso‐nektonic resources after they have outgrown their own stages of predation vulnerability.
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Document Type: Editorial

Publication date: 01 July 2012

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