Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Energy flow to two abundant consumers in a subtropical oyster reef food web

  • Lauren A. YeagerEmail author
  • Craig A. Layman


Oyster reefs are among the most threatened coastal habitat types, but still provide critical habitat and food resources for many estuarine species. The structure of oyster reef food webs is an important framework from which to examine the role of these reefs in supporting high densities of associated fishes. We identified major trophic pathways to two abundant consumers, gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus) and crested goby (Lophogobius cyprinoides), from a subtropical oyster reef using stomach content and stable isotope analysis. The diet of gray snapper was dominated by crabs, with shrimp and fishes also important. Juvenile gray snapper fed almost entirely on oyster reef-associated prey items, while subadults fed on both oyster reef- and mangrove-associated prey. Based on trophic guilds of the gray snapper prey, as well as relative δ13C values, microphytobenthos is the most likely basal resource pool supporting gray snapper production on oyster reefs. Crested goby had omnivorous diets dominated by bivalves, small crabs, detritus, and algae, and thus were able to take advantage of prey relying on production from sestonic, as well as microphytobenthos, source pools. In this way, crested goby represent a critical link of sestonic production to higher trophic levels. These results highlight major trophic pathways supporting secondary production in oyster reef habitat, thereby elucidating the feeding relationships that render oyster reef critical habitat for many ecologically and economically important fish species.


Diet Estuary Lutjanus griseus Lophogobius cyprinoides Stable isotope analysis 



This study was funded by the Loxahatchee River District, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship #2007050021, and Florida International University. This work was permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, and methods followed the protocol approved by FIU IACUC # 09-009. We thank Christina Acevedo, Albrey Arrington, Kevin Bernhart, Joseph Brooker, Thomas Browning, Zack Jud, Evan McLean, Jerry Metz, Carlos Villegas, and Karissa Wasko for help with field work. Comments from Maureen Donnelly, Joel Fodrie and three anonymous reviewers helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Sciences Program, Department of Biological SciencesFlorida International UniversityNorth MiamiUSA

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