Food of sand smelt, Atherina boyeri Risso, 1810 (Pisces: Atherinidae) in the estuary of the Mala Neretva River (middle-eastern Adriatic, Croatia)
Keywords:sand smelt, food, Neretva River estuary, Croatia
The feeding habits of sand smelt, Atherina boyeri Risso, 1810 in the mouth of the Mala Neretva River were studied by examining the stomach contents of 1236 fishes collected from March 2001 to February 2002. Thirteen different food categories were identified. The greatest diversity was recorded in winter, especially in January, when 11 categories were present. The minimum (4) was in September, and was associated with the highest number of empty stomachs. Marine and estuarine species represented the bulk of the prey, while typically fresh-water species (Daphnia spp. and Cyclops spp.) were found only sporadically. Crustaceans were the most common prey and, of these, the most common were copepods (45%), followed by gammarid amphipods (34%), cladocerans (13%), decapod larvae (12%) and mysids (8%). Insects represented 7%. The percentage number of prey showed high seasonal variations. Copepods dominated in autumn and winter, cyclopoids in April, poecilostomatoids and harpacticoids in December, and calanoids in January and February. Decapod larvae dominated in March-May, and mysids in July-August. PCA and clustering analysis was performed on the prey data in order to reveal associations between prey items or seasonal similarities. The opportunistic mode of feeding of the species Atherina boyeri is also discussed.
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