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Diet overlap among flatfish species in the southern North Sea

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The diets of two non‐commercial flatfish species (solenette Buglossidium luteum and scaldfish Arnoglossus laterna) and two commercial flatfish species (dab Limanda limanda and plaice Pleuronectes platessa) were compared in a study area in the German Bight (southern North Sea) to investigate prey‐resource partitioning between these species. The diets of A. laterna and B. luteum mainly comprised crustaceans (harpacticoids, amphipods, cumaceans and decapods), whereas the diet of L. limanda and P. platessa consisted mainly of polychaetes. The Schoener index, calculated for different fish size classes between these flatfish species, showed a biologically significant diet overlap between small‐sized L. limanda and P. platessa and B. luteum and A. laterna, using similar prey resources of smaller prey (e.g. amphipods, harpacticoids and juvenile bivalves). In contrast, with increasing body size, a change in the diet of L. limanda and P. platessa towards larger prey occurred (e.g. polychaetes and decapods), resulting in low diet overlap values with B. luteum and A. laterna. Due to these size‐related differences in resource use, it is assumed that there is reduced interspecific competition for prey between larger L. limanda and P. platessa and both non‐commercial flatfishes, probably facilitating resource partitioning within the same area. In contrast, smaller L. limanda and P. platessa may compete directly for the same prey resources with B. luteum and A. laterna. Furthermore, prey availability of most important prey items of the studied flatfishes was relatively low in the study area. Therefore, increasing abundances of B. luteum and A. laterna in the southern North Sea since the late 1980s, owing to fishing effects and climate change, might affect the population dynamics of L. limanda and P. platessa.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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