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Mycteroperca microlepis from a non-estuarine seagrass bed habitat in the southern Gulf of Mexico
Diet of juvenile gag
Diet composition, including seasonal and ontogenetic variations, was evaluated in juvenile gag, Mycteroperca microlepis (Goode and Bean, 1880), from a nearshore open marine seagrass bed on the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Stomach contents from 322 juveniles (6.6–36.0
cm total length, TL) were analyzed using percentage frequency of occurrence (%F), percentage number (%N), percentage weight (%W), and a dietary index (Q = %N · %W). Young gag preyed heavily on caridean shrimps (Q = 791, %F = 38), fishes (Q = 327, %F = 13), penaeid shrimps (Q = 287,
%F = 16), and unidentified decapods (Q = 114, %F = 26). Dominant prey in stomach contents shifted from caridean shrimps (Q = 1072, %F = 41) during the warm season to fishes (Q = 1392, %F = 21) and penaeid shrimps (Q = 1098, %F = 33) during the cold season. Size-dependent shifts in diet were
also observed, particularly when organisms reached a size of ∼17 cm TL. Dominant prey were caridean shrimps (Q = 1186, %F = 45) for gag ≤ 17 cm TL and fishes (Q = 2379, %F = 35) and penaeid shrimps (Q = 1005, %F = 27) for gag > 17 cm tl. Diet composition and ontogenetic changes in
juvenile gag diet were similar, independent of nursery habitat (seagrass or oyster shell bed inside or outside of an estuarine system). Gag is therefore best considered an estuarine opportunist, with nursery ground habitat (i.e., seagrass meadows) being the final factor controlling juvenile
settlement and growth.
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