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Trophic ecology of Lampanyctus crocodilus on north-west Mediterranean Sea slopes in relation to reproductive cycle and environmental variables

June 17, 2014

This study examined the population structure, reproductive cycle and feeding pattern of the lanternfish Lampanyctus crocodilus in the Balearic Basin (north-west Mediterranean Sea) from a depth of 450 to 1800 m and at a seasonal scale. Juveniles were mainly located at shallower depths, but also at deepest stations in autumn, while adults mostly inhabited intermediate depths with their centre of population density (CPD) located at 800–1000 m of depth. The migration of adults to deeper depths was detected in late summer to autumn, probably linked to the occurrence of nepheloid layers at c. 1200 m, which in turn enhances the biomass of the zooplankton prey. The diet was mainly based on euphausiids and mysids, with marked seasonal variations both on the upper (450–800 m) and lower (1000–1800 m), where suprabenthic gammariids and pelagic decapods were also dominant. Stomach fullness increased from winter to autumn on the US, while it had a maximum in spring on the LS, in parallel with high consumption of gelatinous zooplankton, which is probably more available after the phytoplankton bloom in late winter. Reproduction occurred in winter, confirmed by the higher percentage of mature females and high gonadosomatic indices (IG) at both depth ranges. Hepatosomatic indices (IH) showed an inverse trend to IG on the US, except in autumn, and was almost parallel on the LS, probably attributable to the migration of adults, which determined different temporal schemes in energy use and storage for reproduction on the US v. LS. Consistent with the different patterns observed at the two depth ranges, environmental drivers of fullness (i.e. feeding intensity) and IG (as a proxy of reproductive cycle) differed on the US and LS. The biomass of mysids and euphausiids was the greatest explanatory variables of fullness on the US and LS, pointing to the increasing feeding intensity when a resource was more available. IH also explained fullness, suggesting that greater feeding intensity in pre-reproductive periods enabled energy storage in the liver. IG was linked directly (i.e. mysids) or indirectly (i.e. surface primary production recorded 2 months before sampling) to food availability, implying a rapid response to vertical food inputs by deep-sea predators. Also, IG in L. crocodilus was related to population density, which suggests aggregations for reproduction. Estimates of L. crocodilus trophic levels, and of other accompanying mesopelagic fishes, indicated that the species feed through a continuum spanning the third trophic level, confirming the key role of mesopelagic fishes in transferring organic carbon between trophic levels. Trophic niche segregation among mesopelagic species was pronounced and non-overlapping groups could be distinguished because of the different vertical distribution and migratory behaviour. The study highlights the important role of the benthic boundary layer in sustaining benthopelagic communities in the deep Mediterranean Sea and the need to study the biology of a species throughout its whole depth range and not just at exploited depths (i.e. fishing grounds).

Fanelli E, Papiol V, Cartes JE, Rodriguez-Romeu O, in press: Trophic ecology of Lampanyctus crocodilus on north-west Mediterranean Sea slopes in relation to reproductive cycle and environmental variables, Journal of Fish Biology, doi:10.1111/jfb.12378. Article (subscription required).

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