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Size matters: variation in the diet of chick and adult crested terns
McLeay, L.J.; Page, B.; Goldsworthy, S.D.; Ward, T.M.; Paton, D.C. (2009). Size matters: variation in the diet of chick and adult crested terns. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 156(9): 1765-1780. hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-009-1211-4
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • McLeay, L.J.
  • Page, B.
  • Goldsworthy, S.D.
  • Ward, T.M.
  • Paton, D.C.

Abstract
    We investigated ontogenetic, temporal and spatial patterns in the composition and size of prey in the diet of crested terns, Sterna bergii. Diet analyses indicated that crested terns are a generalist predator on surface-schooling clupeids (Australian anchovy Engraulis australis, sardine Sardinops sagax and blue sprat Spratelloides robustus), Degens leatherjacket Thamnaconus degeni, southern sea garfish Hyporhamphus melanochir, Australian herring Arripis georgianus, slender bullseye Parapriacanthus elongatus and barracouta Thyrsites atun. Ontogenetic differences in prey size indicated that adults are constrained in their foraging behaviour during the early chick-provisioning period by the need to self feed and select smaller prey that can be ingested by their chicks. Chicks consumed significantly higher proportions of clupeids than adults, which consumed mainly Degens leatherjackets and barracouta, suggesting that adults may select higher quality prey for their chicks compared to what they consume themselves. Spatial differences in prey composition were driven by differing proportions of sardine, Australian anchovy and Degens leatherjacket and could reflect local differences in the abundances of these prey. The size of prey taxa consumed by adults also reflected a North–South gradient in prey size. The large component of juvenile sardine in the diet of crested terns suggests future dietary measures may inform fisheries managers about changes in local juvenile sardine abundance. These data could assist in highlighting any fishery-related decreases in sardine recruitment and help ensure commercial fishing practices address principals of Ecologically Sustainable Development developed for Australian fisheries.

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