Predatory impact of the myctophid fish community on zooplankton in the Scotia Sea (Southern Ocean)
Myctophids are the most abundant mesopelagic fishes in the Southern Ocean, although their trophic role within the predominantly krill-based food web in regions south of the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) is poorly resolved. This study therefore examined the diets of 10 species of myctophid fishes: Electrona antarctica, E. carlsbergi, Gymnoscopelus braueri, G. fraseri, G. nicholsi, Krefftichthys anderssoni, Protomyctophum bolini, P. tenisoni, P. choriodon and Nannobrachium achirus, in the Scotia Sea, together with their predatory impact on the underlying zooplankton community. Myctophids and their prey were sampled in different seasons by scientific nets deployed across the Scotia Sea from the sea-ice zone to the APF. Based on the percentage index of relative importance, myctophids had high overlap in their diets, although the data indicate dietary specialisation in some species. There was also a distinct switch in diet, from copepods to euphausiids and amphipods, with increasing myctophid size. Myctophid predation impacted daily copepod production by between 0.01 and 5%, with Calanus simillimus being most impacted. Total annual consumption of copepods was around 1.5 million t (Mt) per year. All myctophids preyed upon the euphausiid Thysanoessa spp., consuming ~12% of its daily productivity and around 4 Mt per year. However, only larger myctophid species preyed upon Antarctic krill Euphausia superba, consuming 2% of its daily productivity, which could amount to as much as 17 Mt per year. Themisto gaudichaudii was also an important dietary component, with 4% of its daily productivity being consumed, amounting to around 2 Mt per year. This study demonstrates that myctophids link secondary productivity to higher predators both through krill-dependent and krill-independent trophic pathways.
Authors: Saunders, Ryan A., Collins, Martin A., Ward, Peter, Stowasser, Gabriele, Hill, Simeon L., Shreeve, Rachael, Tarling, Geraint A.