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Feeding habits of young predatory fishes in marsh creeks situated along the salinity gradient of the Schelde estuary, Belgium and The Netherlands
Hampel, H.; Cattrijsse, A.; Elliott, M. (2005). Feeding habits of young predatory fishes in marsh creeks situated along the salinity gradient of the Schelde estuary, Belgium and The Netherlands. Helgol. Mar. Res. 59(2): 151-162.
Peer reviewed article  

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    Aquatic organisms > Heterotrophic organisms > Predators
    Behaviour > Feeding behaviour
    Gradients > Salinity gradients
    Water bodies > Inland waters > Wetlands > Marshes > Salt marshes
    Corophium volutator (Pallas, 1766) [WoRMS]; Dicentrarchus labrax (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Heteromastus filiformis (Claparède, 1864) [WoRMS]; Macoma balthica (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Nereis diversicolor Müller, 1776 [WoRMS]; Platichthys flesus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
    ANE, Belgium, Zwin [Marine Regions]; ANE, Netherlands, Westerschelde [Marine Regions]; Belgium, Het Zwin natuurreservaat
Author keywords
    feeding habit; salinity gradient; salt marsh; predatory fish

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    Fish and macrobenthos were sampled in four different marshes along the salinity gradient of the Schelde estuary, Belgium/Netherlands, to investigate the importance of marsh creeks as foraging grounds for the dominant, larger fish species. The total density and biomass of all the main macrobenthic taxa (Corophium volutator, Nereis diversicolor, Oligochaeta, Macoma baltica and Heteromastus fliliformis) were measured. The feeding habits of the larger predatory fishes (Platichthys flesus, Dicentrarchus labrax) were investigated. Qualitative and quantitative stomach analyses included the calculation of different indices, showing the niche breadth (as diet diversity) and the niche overlap (as similarity between the predators' diet) for this habitat. These analyses showed that the two most important benthic prey species for P. flesus were C. volutator and N. diversicolor. D. labrax preyed upon a wider range of species, including C. volutator, N. diversicolor, Crangon crangon, Carcinus maenas and Orchestia spp. The stomach diversity of D. labrax and P. flesus showed differences between the marshes although there was no consistent pattern in diet composition, reflecting the opportunistic nature of feeding by these large predators. The fullness indices of both flounder and sea bass did not differ significantly along the salinity gradient and the estimated minimum consumption by these predators did not indicate a top-down control of the macrobenthic community. The salt marsh creeks seem to provide excess food for the visiting fish species. The benthic prey was present in very high abundances, which may suggest that the typical nursery species such as C. crangon and C. maenas, and early juveniles of P. flesus, D. labrax and Pomatoschistus microps were not preyed upon significantly. This supports the hypothesis that salt marsh creeks provide good refuge areas for nursery species against predation by larger fish.

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