The trophodynamics of Southern Ocean Electrona (Myctophidae) in the Scotia Sea
The Scotia Sea is one of the most productive regions of the Southern Ocean, but its surface waters are experiencing a rapid increase in temperature, which may be changing the behaviour and distribution of many myctophids and their prey species. Electrona antarctica and Electrona carlsbergi are two of the most abundant myctophids in the region, but their ecology is poorly understood and their response to ongoing environmental change is difficult to determine. This study investigated spatial and temporal patterns in their abundance, population structure and diets using mid-water trawl nets deployed across the Scotia Sea during spring, summer and autumn. E. antarctica was the most numerically abundant species (0.09–0.21 ind. 1,000 m−3), with greatest concentrations occurring in the sea-ice sectors. E. carlsbergi occurred in more northern regions, comprising densities of 0.02–0.11 ind. 1,000 m−3. There was evidence of seasonal variation in depth distribution, size-related sexual dimorphism and size-specific vertical stratification for both species. Latitudinal trends in sex ratio and female body size were apparent for E. antarctica. Its diet varied between regions, seasons and size classes, but overall, Euphausia superba, Metridia spp. and Themisto gaudichaudii were the dominant prey items. E. carlsbergi appeared not to recruit in the Scotia Sea. Its diet was dominated by copepods, particularly Rhincalanus gigas and Metridia spp., but regional, seasonal and ontogenetic variations were evident. This study contributes to our understanding of how mid-water food webs are structured in the Southern Ocean and their sensitivity to ongoing environmental change.
Authors: Saunders, Ryan A., Collins, Martin A., Foster, Emma, Shreeve, Rachel, Stowasser, Gabriele, Ward, Peter, Tarling, Geraint A.