Long-term changes in the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) trophic role in the southwestern Atlantic

Abstract

We used a comprehensive dataset on the diet of Squalus acanthias in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean (35–55°S) to test the hypothesis that fishery has caused a decrease in the trophic level of this species (fishing down process). Of 3,644 stomachs examined between the years 1985 and 2010, 2,214 (60.77%) contained prey items. Generalized linear models were used to evaluate the support in our data for five explanatory variables (sex, predator’s total length, season, region and decade) that may explain the consumption of the given prey. The frequency of fish, mainly Merluccius hubbsi, and benthos in the stomachs decreased through time, whereas the squid Illex argentinus and jellyfishes exhibited positive trends. The trophic level of S. acanthias declined from the 1980s to the 1990s due to the high consumption of prey items at lower trophic levels. On the other hand, the consumption of argentine anchovy, Engraulis anchoita, an underexploited species, did not reveal changes through time.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Trophic Ecology Group of the Instituto Nacional de Investigacion y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP) for the historical dataset and the specimens collected from the research cruises. We would like to thank Gaby Silvoni and Guilla Cosulich (librarians of INIDEP) who provided most helpful documentation. We are also grateful to J. Collonelo and C. Buratti (Celtas), Fede Cortés, Noe Marí and Pelado Casagrande for their help during sample collection. Earlier versions of the manuscript benefited from comments by the editor and two anonymous reviewers. Belleggia Mauro was supported by a scholarship of CONICET. This research was partially supported by PICT 2007/02200 of CONICET. This is INIDEP contribution No. 1683.

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Correspondence to Mauro Belleggia.

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Belleggia, M., Figueroa, D.E., Sánchez, F. et al. Long-term changes in the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) trophic role in the southwestern Atlantic. Hydrobiologia 684, 57–67 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-011-0967-y

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Keywords

  • Chondrichthyes
  • Squalidae
  • Trophic ecology
  • Fishing down
  • Marine ecosystem
  • Fisheries
  • Argentine Sea