Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

The Trophic Structure and Predation Impact of a Low Latitude Midwater Fish Assemblage



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Progress in Oceanography



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The trophic ecology of a midwater fish assemblage was investigated in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, a regime exhibiting the principal physical-biological characteristics of oligotrophic low latitude ecosystems. In all, the diets of 164 species of midwater fishes were examined, with data for 121 being sufficient for analytical comparisons. Cluster analysis grouped the assemblage into 15 feeding guilds, with these falling into two major groups, those including zooplanktivores with largely crustacean diets, and those including predators on large prey, most of which were piscivores. Among the zooplanktivores, the principal predators were the Myctophidae, Sternoptychidae and Gonostomatidae which, respectively, consumed 31%, 27% and 14% of the food biomass eaten daily by the midwater fish assemblage. The myctophids alone accounted for 53% of the copepod and 40% of the euphausiid biomass ingested. The copepod genus Pleuromamma was especially important forage, constituting 40% of the copepod biomass consumed by the midwater fish assemblage. The Stomiidae were the dominant piscivores and accounted for 20% of the total food ingested daily and 61% of the fish eaten, with the majority of their prey being myctophids. Literature comparisons reveal that diet patterns for the eastern Gulf midwater assemblage closely resemble those for mid- to- low latitude oligotrophic regimes in general.

Daily consumption of the entire assemblage is estimated at 2.5–4.3 kg C km−2 in the upper 1000 m. Four fifths of this is zooplankton while the balance is large prey, mostly fishes. The ingestion rate accounts for only 5–10% of the daily production of zooplankton, but 95% of fish daily production. While the latter is obviously an overestimate it does suggest a tighter nutritional coupling of the midwater fish assemblage with the upper trophic levels of the ecosystem than with zooplankton. Midwater fishes and shrimps, the two dominant groups of micronekton, together account for only 25% of zooplankton daily production consumed in the eastern Gulf and it remains unresolved as to which midwater ecosystem components are responsible for most of the utilization of zooplankton food resources.







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©1997 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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NSF contract #s: DES. 75-03845, OCE 84-10787.

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