Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 47-58

First online:

Seasonal and size-related changes in the food of the short-finned eel, Anguilla australis in Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury, New Zealand

  • Patrick A. RyanAffiliated withZoology Department, University of Canterbury

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An approximately monthly sampling programme in Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury, New Zealand, from January 1974 to April 1976 yielded 487 eels. The stomachs were fixed in 10% neutralised formalin and the contents examined. Preliminary analysis indicated that the mollusc Potamopyrgus antipodarum, the isopod Austridotea annectens, the mysid Tenagomysis chiltoni, the amphipod Paracalliope fluviatilis, the midge larva Chironomus zealandicus and the teleosts Retropinna retropinna, Galaxias maculatus and Gobiomorphus cotidianus together made up the bulk of the diet. The pre-ingested dry weight (i.e. the reconstructed weight) of the most important of these prey species was obtained by relating the length of a digestion resistant part to actual dry weight in field collected specimens. Regression equations for this relationship in each season enabled the reconstructed dry weight of each stomach item to be calculated. In some instances reconstructed weight was less than the actual digested dry weight of the prey specimen. In every case the larger value was used. This method is referred to as Combination Dry Weight (CDW) and is believed to be new. These data, used in conjunction with the energy content of the species concerned, enabled the caloric dietary contribution of each prey species to be determined. Comparison of relative contribution to eel diet between CDW and energy values calculated from CDW and bomb calorimetry revealed large differences. Marked variations in diet between ⩽40 cm, 40.1–50 cm, and>50.1 cm size classes were also shown. Eels ≤40 cm feed primarily on invertebrates and become progressively more piscivorous as they grow. Eels >50.1 cm are almost entirely piscivorous. Seasonal differences in diet also exist within each size class examined.


Feeding Caloric content Energy Season Size class