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The role of the generally unrecognised microprey source as food for larval fish in the Irish Sea
de Figueiredo, G.M.; Nash, R.D.M.; Montagnes, D.J.S. (2005). The role of the generally unrecognised microprey source as food for larval fish in the Irish Sea. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 148(2): 395-404.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • de Figueiredo, G.M.
  • Nash, R.D.M.
  • Montagnes, D.J.S.

    Few studies have studied the food supply to larval fish in the Irish Sea; thus, we have assessed the full prey-field available to larval fish, ranging from protozoa to copepods. Specifically we assessed if fish larvae feed on protozoa, as suggested by others, and if densities of the protozoa and the appropriate size of metazoan prey were previously underestimated. By examining the gutcontents of fish larvae, the prey available to them, and the potential accessibility of prey to fish, we develop a simple food web, presented as a box-model. By doing so, we indicate that the lack of focus on small metazoa and protozoa has underestimated the food available to fish larvae; without these, we might have concluded that prey levels were too low to support the growth of the larval fish assemblage. Our methods were as follows. Sampling was at two sites, off the Isle of Man, with distinct physical and biological structures, soon after fish spawning: the southwest coast, where many species occur in spring-summer (23 April; 6, 19 May; 1, 22 June; 12 July) and the east coast, where only herring larvae occur in September–November (12, 28 October). Microplankton (15–200 µm), mesozooplankton, and larval fish were collected at 1, 15, and 25 m: microplankton with 1.5 L bottles and a 64 µm-mesh net; mesozooplankton and larval fish with a Gulf VII high-speed sampler (280 µm mesh). The 64 µm mesh net, mounted on the Gulf VII, provided simultaneous hauls. Fixed samples were evaluated to determine species composition, abundance, and biomass. Larval fish diet was determined from fish collected by short net hauls: fixed guts were examined and prey, including protozoa, analysed. Using physical data as a guide, plankton data were integrated through the water column to determine standing stocks. Size-based food availability to larval fish was estimated from the gut contents. The role of protozoa was examined, assuming that they are digested at the same rate as metazoan and if they are digested 2.5–10 times faster; increased digestion rates indicated that they contributed substantially to the larval fish diet.

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