Diet of 0-group stages of capelin (Mallotus villosus), herring (Clupea harengus) and cod (Gadus morhua) during spring and summer in the Barents Sea

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Abstract

Recruitment of capelin in the Barents Sea fail when juvenile herring and cod are abundant and the potential for feeding competition of wild sympatric capelin and herring larvae and small cod juveniles were investigated. The frequency of gut evacuation after capture of capelin larvae were also studied in mesocosms. Small capelin larvae (<35 mm length) fed on small prey including phytoplankton, invertebrate eggs and nauplii, bivalves, other invertebrate larvae and small copepods. Calanus copepodites were only observed in large capelin larvae (>26 mm length). Calanus copepodites were the major food sources for contemporary herring larvae (25–35 mm length) and Calanus and euphausiids were the major prey for small juvenile herring (37–60 mm length) and cod (18–40 mm length). Capelin larvae reared in mesocosms evacuated the guts shortly after capture. Capelin larvae had a smaller mouth and fed on smaller prey than herring and cod of the same length. This implies that the small capelin larvae, in contrast to sympatric small herring and cod, are not tightly linked to the food chain involving Calanus and euphausiids. Thus, exploitative competition between capelin larvae and planktivorous fish that rely on Calanus and euphausiids in the Barents Sea may be relaxed.

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