Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 11, pp 2347–2368 | Cite as

Feeding ecology and niche segregation in oceanic top predators off eastern Australia

  • Jock W. Young
  • Matt J. Lansdell
  • Robert A. Campbell
  • Scott P. Cooper
  • Francis Juanes
  • Michaela A. Guest
Original Paper


We examined the feeding ecology and niche segregation of the ten most abundant fish species caught by longline operations off eastern Australia between 1992 and 2006. Diets of 3,562 individuals were examined. Hook timer data were collected from a further 328 fish to examine feeding behaviour in relation to depth and time of day. Prey biomass was significantly related to predator species, predator length and year and latitude of capture. Although the fish examined fed on a mix of fish, squid and crustacea, fish dominated the diet of all species except small albacore (Thunnus alalunga) which fed mainly on crustacea and large swordfish (Xiphias gladius) and albacore which fed mainly on squid. Cannibalism was observed in lancetfish (Alepisaurus spp.). Multidimensional scaling identified three species groups based on their diet composition. One group consisted of yellowfin tuna (T. albacares), striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) and dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus); a second group consisted of bigeye tuna (T. obesus), swordfish and albacore; and a third consisted of southern bluefin tuna (T. maccoyii) and blue shark (Prionace glauca). Of note was the separation of mako shark (Isurus oxyrhynchus) and lancetfish from all other predators. Prey length generally increased with increasing predator length although even large predators fed on a wide range of prey lengths including very small prey. Overall, differences in prey type and size, feeding times and depths were noted across the range of species examined to the extent that predators with overlapping prey, either in type or size, fed at different times of the diel period or at different depths. Taken together these data provide evidence for feeding niche segregation across the range of oceanic top predators examined.


Prey Type Yellowfin Tuna Purse Seine Bigeye Tuna Prey Biomass 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was carried out as part of wider research programme on the trophodynamics of the Eastern Australian Tuna and Billfish fishery and was funded by a grant from the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC Grant 63/2004). The hook timer data were funded separately by a grant to R. A. Campbell and J. W. Young, also by FRDC (FRDC Grant 04/2005). We would like to thank the skippers of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish fishery, Australian Fisheries Management Authority observers, Keller Kopf (Charles Sturt University) and members of the CSIRO Pelagic Fisheries and Ecosystem team for help in collecting samples. We are grateful for the constructive comments of the reviewers and the editor. This manuscript benefited greatly from the interactions provided by the lead author’s involvement with CLIOTOP Working Group 3.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jock W. Young
    • 1
  • Matt J. Lansdell
    • 1
  • Robert A. Campbell
    • 1
  • Scott P. Cooper
    • 1
  • Francis Juanes
    • 2
  • Michaela A. Guest
    • 3
  1. 1.CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHobartAustralia
  2. 2.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  3. 3.Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries InstituteTaroonaAustralia

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