Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1099–1108 | Cite as

Dietary characteristics of co-occurring polar cod (Boreogadus saida) and capelin (Mallotus villosus) in the Canadian Arctic, Darnley Bay

  • D. G. McNichollEmail author
  • W. Walkusz
  • G. K. Davoren
  • A. R. Majewski
  • J. D. Reist
Original Paper


Reduction in sea ice due to climate change is expected to have a negative impact on habitat availability for Arctic marine fishes and induce range expansion of species from southern environments. Such an effect will likely be observed in the abundance of polar cod, Boreogadus saida (Lepechin, 1774), as well as interspecific interactions of this intermediate-level trophic taxon, particularly in more southerly fringing seas in the Arctic. Polar cod and capelin, Mallotus villosus (Müller, 1776), are pelagic, planktivorous forage fishes, which occupy similar dietary niches and are the primary prey of marine predators. Co-occurring polar cod and capelin were collected at seven stations in Darnley Bay, NT, during August 2013. Standard length (SL), used as a proxy for age, suggested that polar cod (mean ± 1 SD: 71.1 ± 10.3 mm) were predominantly age 1+ and capelin (96.2 ± 13.4 mm) were mostly age 2+. Stomach content analyses indicated that both species feed extensively on calanoid copepods (Calanus hyperboreus, C. glacialis, Metridia longa) and amphipods (Themisto libellula). There was high dietary overlap between capelin and polar cod, evidenced by Schoener’s index (0.80). Additionally the quantity of dietary items, biomass and energetic content consumed differed among size classes in both capelin (SL, 70.5–132.0 mm) and polar cod (SL, 42.1–114.4 mm). This study illustrates that the diets of these sympatric forage fishes in an Arctic ecosystem are very similar, indicating a high potential for interspecific competition as the sub-Arctic capelin expands its range into Arctic regions with climate change.


Polar cod Capelin Diet overlap Calanus Climate change 



We thank other members of the BREA Marine Fishes Project, S. MacPhee and S. Atchison for aid in sampling and providing analytical advice. This project is supported by Government of Canada funding (Beaufort Sea Regional Environmental Assessment, Environmental Studies Research Fund, Program on Energy Research and Development), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant (GKD) and a University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Scholarship to DGM.

Compliance with ethical standards

Animal specimens used in this study were processed with the animal care permit under the guidelines of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. G. McNicholl
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • W. Walkusz
    • 1
  • G. K. Davoren
    • 2
  • A. R. Majewski
    • 1
  • J. D. Reist
    • 1
  1. 1.Freshwater InstituteFisheries and Oceans CanadaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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