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Trophic niche overlap between round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) and sympatric pelagic fish species in the Western Mediterranean

AuthorsBachiller, Eneko; Giménez, Joan CSIC ORCID ; Albo Puigserver, Marta CSIC ORCID ; Pennino, Maria Grazia; Marí-Mena, Neus; Esteban, Antonio; Lloret Lloret, Elena ; Bellido, José M.; Coll, Marta CSIC ORCID
KeywordsDiet dissimilarity
Multi-proxy diet analysis
Prey preference
Small pelagic fish
Trophic interactions
Trophic niche width
Issue DateNov-2021
PublisherEuropean Society of Evolutionary Biology
Society for the Study of Evolution
CitationEcology and Evolution 11(22): 16126-16142 (2021)
AbstractThe northward expansion of round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) in the Mediterranean Sea, together with declines and fluctuations in biomass and landings of European sardine (Sardina pilchardus) and anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) observed in recent decades, may suggest potential inter-specific competition in the pelagic domain. The coexistence of sympatric zooplanktivorous fish species might therefore be exposed in part to trophic niche overlap and competition for food. Combining visual diet characterization under the microscope with DNA metabarcoding from stomach contents of fish collected in spring results show that predation on relatively large krill is equally important for sardinella than for the other two niche overlapping species. Furthermore, an important overlap is found in their isotopic niche, especially with anchovy, using nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) stable isotopes in muscle tissue. In fact, the three fish species are able to feed effectively in the whole prey size spectrum available during the sampled season, from the smallest diatoms and copepods to the larger prey (i.e., decapods and euphausiids), including fish larvae. Moreover, effective predation upon other large prey like siphonophores, which is observed only when multi-proxy analyses in stomach contents are applied, might also be relevant in the diet of sardinella. The overlapping diet composition in spring, together with the effective use of food resource by sardinella, can be of special interest in potential future scenarios with warmer water temperature leading to lower zooplankton and/or higher jellyfish availability, where sardinella may take advantage over other species due to its feeding plasticity
Description17 pages, 7 figures, 3 tables, supporting Information Data availability statement: All the DNA metabarcoding raw reads of prey species obtained from the stomach contents were deposited in the BioProject database (Gen-Bank, NCBI, 1988) as BioProject PRJNA653773. All other data used in the manuscript are included in the manuscript or as Supporting Information
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