Prey selection by the hogchoker, Trinectes maculatus (Pisces: Soleidae), along summer salinity gradients in Chesapeake Bay, USA
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We investigated feeding by the hogchoker, Trinectes maculatus (Bloch and Schneider), in freshwater, oligohaline, mesohaline, and polyhaline regions of Chesapeake Bay, USA, and examined prey selection in relation to food availability. Otter trawling for fish and Van Veen grab sampling for benthic macrofauna occurred in July and August 1992 and August and September 1993. Hogchokers exhibited both opportunistic and selective feeding patterns along the estuarine salinity gradient in four tributaries (Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers) and in the mainstem Chesapeake Bay. Major prey taxa included annelids, arthropods, and tellinid siphons. In polyhaline habitat, polychaetes dominated both the benthos and gut contents numerically and gravimetrically. On the other hand, oligochaetes were numerically dominant in freshwater/oligohaline areas but were rarely eaten, perhaps because of their burial depth. Arthropods (mostly amphipods) occurred at most salinities, were common in gut contents in low-salinity areas, and were replaced as prey by larger proportions of polychaetes in polyhaline regimes. Although hogchokers ate tellinid siphons, they rarely consumed whole bivalves or gastropods. These diet patterns (and especially the importance of siphon nipping) are similar to those of juvenile or small flatfish elsewhere in Europe, Africa, and North America. A size–salinity relationship for hogchokers occurred along the summer salinity gradient, with smaller fish predominating upstream and larger fish downstream. It was not clear from our data if variation in diet composition reflected changes in prey composition along the salinity gradient rather than changes in fish size.
KeywordsBivalve Polychaete Salinity Gradient Burial Depth Prey Selection
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