Marine Biology

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 301–317 | Cite as

Food division within two sympatric species-pairs of skates (Pisces: Rajidae)

  • J. D. McEachran
  • D. F. Boesch
  • J. A. Musick


Food habits of two sympatric species-pairs of skates (Raja erinacea-R. ocellata and R. radiata-R. senta), which occur off the east coast of North America were investigated. Stomachs from over 1600 specimens of the 4 species were collected during winter, summer, and autumn of 1969 and the winter of 1970. Diets of R. erinacea and R. ocellata consisted largely of amphipods, decapod crustaceans and polychaetes. However, R. ocellata consumed relatively more fishes and polychaetes and less decapods than R. erinacea. These two skates ate many of the same species but in different proportions; R. ocellata tended to feed on infauna and R. erinacea tended to feed on epifauna. Food preferences of the two species may be correlated to the difference in shape of the mouth and number of tooth rows. R. radiata and R. senta both fed heavily on decapod crustaceans and euphausids, but polychaetes were relatively more important to R. radiata and mysids were relatively more important to R. senta. R. radiata had a very diversified diet and fed on both epifauna and infauna. The diet of R. senta was very restricted and consisted almost entirely of epifauna. Diets of the two species-pairs were similar, but isopods and bivalves were more important to the R. erinacea-R. ocellata pair and euphausids and mysids were more important to the R. radiata-R. senta pair. These differences may reflect differences in the benthic communities with which the species-pairs are associated. Amount of overlap in resource utilization of the pairs of skates was compared with that of some other congeneric organisms.


North America Bivalve Resource Utilization East Coast Polychaete 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. McEachran
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. F. Boesch
    • 1
  • J. A. Musick
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceGloucester PointUSA
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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