Feeding habits of the juvenile striped weakfish, Cynoscion guatucupa Cuvier 1830, in Bahía Blanca estuary (Argentina): seasonal and ontogenetic changes
The aim of this study was to analyze the feeding habits of the juvenile striped weakfish, Cynoscion guatucupa Cuvier, from Bahía Blanca estuary, Argentina. C. guatucupa is one of the most important regional fishing resources although in the last 10 years landings have greatly decreased. The year class strength of fish as well as stock size and yield are determined during the early life stages. Knowledge about the diet of young C. guatucupa may therefore contribute to our better understanding of the influence that the changes occurring in the biota of the estuary exert on the abundance fluctuations of this species. To this end, we investigated the ontogenetic and seasonal dietary changes of C. guatucupa between 1.00 and 12.99 cm total length (age 0+), and we related them to changes in habitat use and prey selection. Two dietary shifts were found during ontogeny. The first shift, at approximately 4 cm total length, involved a change from demersal-pelagic prey (mysid shrimps) to demersal-benthic prey (Peisos petrunkevitchi Burkenroad). The second shift, at approximately 8 cm total length, involved a progressive increase in ichthyophagy (mainly an increase consumption of the Argentine anchovy Engraulis anchoita Hubbs & Marini). Seasonal dietary changes were also found. They evidenced the changes in the availability of organisms. In autumn, the chaetognath Sagitta friderici Ritter-Zahoni, P. petrunkevitchi, and E. anchoita were the dominant prey items, in winter, the copepod Labidocera fluviatilis Dahl along with S. friderici, mysids, and P. petrunkevitchi constituted the majority of the diet, and, in summer, mysids were the most important prey item consumed. Selectivity data showed that whereas some prey items, such as the copepods Acartia tonsa Dana and Paracalanus parvus (Claus) and S. friderici, were consistently negatively selected by all size classes throughout the year, other prey items, such as fish larvae, mysids, and P. petrunkevitchi,were selected in one season and avoided in another. Additional dietary seasonal differences observed in our research indicate that the limited food supply and the low water temperatures are limiting factors for winter juveniles in BahÕa Blanca estuary. These factors may also directly influence the more-than-10 cm total length seaward migration of large numbers of C. guatucupa that is registered at the end of every autumn.