, Volume 128, Issue 2, pp 329-336

Interception and dispersal of artificial food falls by scavenging fishes in the abyssal Northeast Atlantic: early-season observations prior to annual deposition of phytodetritus

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The hypothesis that the behaviour of deep-sea scavenging fishes is influenced by seasonal input of organic matter from the ocean surface was investigated by observing responses to baits placed on the sea floor at 4800 m depth in the NE Atlantic (48°50′N; 16°30′W) during spring (April 1994). Data from the present study are compared with those from previous studies of the same location made in summer 1989. The first fishes to arrive at baits were the grenadier Coryphaenoides (Nematonurus) armatus and the eel Histiobranchus bathybius, after delays of 28 and 29 min, respectively; these results are not significantly different from those of summer 1989. Similarly, other indices of activity (staying time and swimming speed) showed no evidence of differences between years/seasons. However, the rate of radial dispersal of bait (0.009 m s−1) by C. (N.) armatus was much slower than in all previous studies. A change in the size distribution of C. (N.) armatus to smaller individuals in spring 1994 was also evident. It is suggested that the fish on the abyssal plain may not comprise a steady-state population and that major episodic or seasonal migrations may occur.