Trophic position of deep-sea fish – assessment through fatty acid and stable isotope analyses
To investigate the trophic ecology of two of the dominant families of deep-sea fish (Macrouridae and Moridae) fatty acid and stable isotope analyses were applied to liver and muscle samples of five abundant species from the NE Atlantic. In conjunction with stomach content data these methods made it possible to identify differences in feeding strategies between the five study species as well as variation in feeding in relation to increasing depth and body size. Biomarkers identified strong similarities between Coryphaenoides armatus and Antimora rostrata though differences were found associating C armatus more with the benthic food web whereas A. rostrata showed stronger links to the pelagic food web. While Lepidion eques was classified as a species linking benthic and benthopelagic food webs, both fatty acid and stable isotope data suggested that Coryphaenoides guentheri fed on an exclusively benthic diet. Coryphaenoides rupestris on the other hand were largely dependent on a copepod-based food web. Ontogenetic changes in feeding were found for both A. rostrato and C armatus with the indication of a switch from active predation to scavenging occurring with increasing body size. Biomarkers also reflected the seasonal influx from the photic zone though changes were species-specific and probably reflected the variation in prey availability and abundance in response to these inputs. Our findings have thus demonstrated that the combined use of these biomarkers can elucidate trophic specialisations in situations where conventional methods alone previously provided insufficient data.
Authors: Stowasser, Gabriele, McAllen, R., Pierce, G.J., Collins, M.A., Moffat, C.F., Priede, I.G., Pond, David W.