Feeding ecology of capelin (Mallotus villosus Müller) in West Greenland waters

Abstract

Capelin (Mallotus villosus Müller) is a key pelagic mediator of energy from lower to higher trophic levels in arctic waters. This is also the case in Greenland waters, but little is known of its feeding behaviour in this region. By analysing stable nitrogen isotopes and stomach content of capelin collected along 1500 km of the Greenland west coast, this study aims to provide knowledge on capelin feeding ecology and the role that diet composition and biomass may have in generating the observed latitudinal growth differences in Greenland capelin. In total, 572 stomachs were sampled. The most dominant prey by wet weight was euphausiids (61 %) followed by amphipods (18 %) and copepods (10 %). The most common species were Thysanoessa raschii, Themisto libulla, Calanus finmarchicus and Calanus hyperboreus. Copepods dominated in smaller capelin but were replaced by euphausiids in larger fish. A similar prey shift towards euphausiids along with an increase in prey weight (relative and absolute) was seen with increasing latitude. The spatial variation in feeding pattern was supported by stable nitrogen analyses. The mean δ15N values of capelin muscle tissue for the south (60–64°N) and north (68–72°N) were 9.54 ‰ ± 0.72 and 12.47 ‰ ± 0.38 (mean ± SD), respectively. However, when differences in isotopic baseline values (C. finmarchicus δ15N, 2.47 ‰) in the two areas were taken into account, the isotope values suggest that capelin in the northern areas fed on a slightly higher trophic level higher than in the south, as would be expected with increasing importance of euphausiids. These significant feeding differences along the Greenland west coast are likely impacting capelin growth and condition as they show parallel trends along the same gradient.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the personnel at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and the RV “Erika” for sampling assistance. Also, we are thankful to Jens Tang Christensen and Anna Neuheimer for helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript as well as anonymous reviewers. The study received financial support from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation and is part of the Greenland Climate Research Centre.

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Correspondence to R. Hedeholm.

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Hedeholm, R., Grønkjær, P. & Rysgaard, S. Feeding ecology of capelin (Mallotus villosus Müller) in West Greenland waters. Polar Biol 35, 1533–1543 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-012-1193-4

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Keywords

  • Capelin
  • δ15N
  • Latitudinal gradient
  • Stable isotopes