, Volume 790, Issue 1, pp 49–65 | Cite as

Diet variability in European anchovy: a comparative analysis between larval populations of the inner Bay of Biscay and the NW Mediterranean

  • Lander IntxaustiEmail author
  • Fernando Villate
  • Lorenzo Motos
  • Ibon Uriarte
  • Arantza Iriarte
Primary Research Paper


Feeding is critical for larval survival and it becomes a determining factor in the annual recruitment in species such as European anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus. Additionally, since differences in the plankton community may affect the larval feeding patterns, an interregional comparative study may contribute to understand these patterns concerning larval development and environmental features. The diet, feeding pattern and prey selectivity in relation to the ontogeny of the larval anchovy in the Cantabrian Sea (inner Bay of Biscay) and the Catalan Sea (NW Mediterranean) were compared in this study. Larvae fed preferentially on copepod eggs, nauplii and calanoid postnauplii, selecting them actively. Larval diet was similar before notochord flexion in the two areas. Nonetheless, for larvae of comparable size, prey preferences skewed towards small preys in the Cantabrian Sea, and towards large preys in the Catalan Sea. Differences appeared in the middle-sized larvae (6.5–9 mm) due to prey size and type. Diet differences were attributable (a) to the ability of the Catalan Sea larvae to capture bigger preys at a smaller individual size; and (b) to differences in prey preferences and availability. Therefore, geographic variety in larval populations and food environment features may promote variability in the larval anchovy diet.


Engraulis encrasicolus Larval feeding Trophic ecology Gut contents Prey preferences Anchovy larvae 



This research was funded by projects CYTMAR MAR99-0328-C03-02 and REN2002-04205-C04-04 granted by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Spanish Government. This work has also been supported by the Basque Government through a PhD researcher training scholarship to L. Intxausti. We are very grateful to colleagues from AZTI-Tecnalia and ICM-CSIC for their help in developing this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science EducationBegoñako Andra Mari Teacher Training University College, BAMBilbaoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of the Basque Country, UPV/EHUBilbaoSpain
  3. 3.Marine Research UnitAZTI-TecnaliaPasaiaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of the Basque Country, UPV/EHUVitoria-GasteizSpain

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