, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 217-254

Feeding habits and trophic levels of Mediterranean fish

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Abstract

The estimation of fractional trophic levels(TROPHs) is essential for the management offisheries resources as well as for quantifyingthe ecosystem effects of fishing. We gatheredall available information concerning thefeeding habits of 332 fish stocks, belonging to146 species, 59 families and 21 orders,throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and estimatedtheir TROPH values. The latter ranged from 2.0to 4.5 and the following functional trophicgroups were identified: (a) pure herbivores (TROPH = 2.0–2.1, mean = 2.02, SD = 0.03),which were very rare and represented by Siganus luridus, Siganus rivulatus andSarpa salpa, all of which feed on red,brown, green and blue-green algae; (b)omnivores with a preference for vegetablematerial (2.1 < TROPH < 2.9, mean = 2.5,SD = 0.12), but feeding on other prey, such assponges, hydrozoans, anthozoans, polychaetes,ostracods, isopods, amphipods and copepods. This type of omnivore was very rare among thecases reviewed; (c) omnivores with a preferencefor animal material (2.9 < TROPH < 3.7,mean = 3.4, SD = 0.19) feeding on a wide variety ofprey (e.g., algae, foraminifera, brachyurans,balanoids, ascidians, amphipods,appendicularians, annelids, isopods,gastropods, cnidarians, ophiurids, polychaetes,cladocerans, mysids, euphausids, fish larvae,cephalopods). They were the most numerous andwere mainly represented by species of thefamilies Blenniidae, Bothidae, Centracanthidae,Gobiidae, Labridae, Lotidae, Macrouridae,Mullidae, Ophidiidae, Soleidae, Triglidaeand Engraulidae; and (d) carnivores witha preference for large decapods, cephalopodsand fish (3.7 < TROPH < 4.5). They werethe next most abundant group among the casesreviewed. They were mainly represented byspecies of the families Dalatiidae, Lophiidae,Scombridae, Scyliorhinidae, Synodontidae,Torpedinidae, Merlucciidae, Xiphiidae andZeidae. This group was divided into twosubgroups: one exhibiting a preference fordecapods and fish (3.7 < TROPH < 4.0,mean = 3.85, SD = 0.09) and another one exhibitinga preference for fish and cephalopods (4.0 <TROPH < 4.5, mean = 4.38, SD = 0.12). Potentialtop carnivores in the Mediterranean Sea werealso identified. Although such a grouping isprovisional, and subject to revision when moredatasets for other species, habitats and areas(especially from the Southern MediterraneanSea, which was underrepresented in ourcompilation) become available, it may serve asa basis for the maintenance of trophic levelbalance in the Mediterranean Sea. This willset the basis for an ecosystem approach to themanagement of the Mediterranean Sea. Acrossspecies, TROPH values increased asymptoticallywith maximum reported body length. The samewas also true for 9 out of 11 stocks, for whichdiet composition data were available for morethan three length classes. The within- andamong-species asymptotic relationships betweenTROPH and body length are discussed within theframework of foraging behavior and preyselection theory. Finally, based on thesampling characteristics and methodology usedin the studies reviewed, some recommendationsfor future stomach content studies are alsoprovided.