Small pelagic fish are the link between planktonic production and higher trophic levels. Competition for resources may play a role in the population dynamics of species, some of them probably standing out from the others due to greater feeding success. It is therefore important to understand the trophic niche of species overlapping both spatially and temporally. In this study, we have investigated the diet, prey preference, trophic niche breadth and diet overlap of the 8 major small pelagic species (anchovy, sardine, sprat, Atlantic and Mediterranean horse mackerel, bogue, Atlantic mackerel and Atlantic chub mackerel) inhabiting the Bay of Biscay. Results indicate that all fish feed mainly on calanoid copepods, incorporating larger prey like euphausiids and decapods to complete their diet. Differences in ingested prey diversity seem to be more limited by the available zooplankton at sea than by a specific diet preference by fish species, resulting in an overall high diet overlap, especially within clupeids but also between clupeids and other (larger) predator species. Consumption estimations for different prey groups could therefore determine whether such a large diet overlap between small pelagic fish, together with spatial co-occurrence, results in competition or enhances the effects of intraguild predation, which is important in terms of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.
Trophodynamics and diet overlap of small pelagic fish species in the Bay of Biscay 2015, 534:179 Marine Ecology Progress Series