Finfish vs jellyfish: complimentary feeding patterns allow threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and common jellyfish Aurelia aurita to co-exist in a Danish cove
The threespine stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and the common jellyfish Aurelia aurita are keystone species in many marine ecosystems, including the shallow cove Kertinge Nor, in Denmark. Both species feed on zooplankton, raising the potential for competition between them. While jellyfish are tactile filtering planktivores, sticklebacks are visual feeders that actively detect, attack and capture prey. The study compared clearance rates (Cl) and tested the hypothesis that jellyfish are more efficient in feeding on small prey and sticklebacks on larger prey animals. Individual (Clind) and population (Clpop) feeding characteristics were studied under good visual conditions. Individual sticklebacks (TL = 44 mm) demonstrated 14–51-fold higher Clind than jellyfish (d = 27 mm) when feeding on small (< 1 mm) and medium (1–4 mm) sized prey and threefold higher Clind when feeding on larger prey (4–11 mm). Clpop was calculated for both species based on their densities in the cove. When consuming small- and medium-sized prey in May–July, Clpop for stickleback was 2–20-fold higher than for jellyfish, but in August following a decrease in fish density, Clpop was higher for jellyfish. This may imply higher predation pressure from stickleback on zooplankton in Kertinge Nor at the beginning of the season, though the common jellyfish was considered earlier as a species controlling zooplankton there. The two competing species likely coexist in the cove due to different seasonal cycles of abundance and thus different seasonal patterns of plankton consumption.
We are very grateful to H. U. Riisgård for comprehensive help, discussions and advice during and after the current study. We further wish to express our thanks to K. Lundgreen, D. Zalacáin Domench and N. Jeune for help with the cultivation of phyto- and zooplankton for our experiments and technical assistance during laboratory and field work. Thanks go to B. Lüskow who created the map, S. Torres Ortiz for the sketch used in Fig. 2, K. Anderson Hansen and K. Alexander for English language editing. We are very grateful to associate editor—J. Purcell and two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable help in preparing the manuscript for publication.
This study was financially supported by Saint-Petersburg State University (NIR 1.42.1291.2014), the Danish Agency for Universities and Internationalisation and the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations (FASO Russia, project AAAA-A17-117030310197-7).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
We declare that we have no conflict of interest.
Human or animal rights
This study includes the use of a fish species from the Gasterosteidae family and invertebrate Crustaceans and Scyphozoa; all applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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