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Keywords:

  • benthos availability;
  • diet composition;
  • exotic trout;
  • feeding strategy;
  • Patagonia;
  • stream

Abstract

The dietary composition and feeding strategy of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum), in two low-order Patagonian streams were studied. Benthic macroinvertebrate availability was estimated in both riffles and pools. Fish stomach contents were examined to determine prey richness and diversity, prey electivity, food-niche width, and the feeding strategy employed by trout throughout the year. Availability of benthos varied seasonally with Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Plecoptera and Diptera species dominating. Rainbow trout diet was composed mainly of benthic macroinvertebrates, followed by terrestrial insects, fish, algae and plants. Different trout size classes segregated the use of food resources to reduce predation pressure. Elected prey included organisms displaying no to high mobility. A high feeding plasticity allows trout to buffer changes in food availability by switching from a specialised to a generalised feeding behaviour. Consequently, trout may exploit abundant but temporary food resources opportunistically, which would explain their marked expansion in Patagonian environments.