Get access

Interdecadal and spatial variations of diet composition in horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus


  • S. Garrido,

    Corresponding author
    1. Guia Marine Laboratory, Centre of Oceanography, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Av. de Nossa Senhora da Guia, 939, 2750-374 Cascais, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
  • A. G. Murta

    1. Instituto Nacional dos Recursos Biológicos (INRB, I.P./IPIMAR), Avenida de Brasília, 1449-006 Lisboa, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author

Tel.: +351 214869211; email:


Interdecadal variability of the diet composition of horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus was examined through analysis of the stomach contents of fish collected from the north-west and south of Portugal during 1990–1992 and 2005–2006. These decades correspond to periods of high and low feeding intensity of T. trachurus. Dietary composition of adult T. trachurus was assessed by determining the frequency of occurrence and biovolume of identified prey, and these two variables were combined to estimate an index of relative importance of prey. Dietary composition differed between areas, seasons and, in particular, decades. The most important prey in 1990–1992 were euphausiids while in 2005–2006 the most important prey were fishes. Results show that periods of different feeding intensity for T. trachurus are characterized by diets with different dominant prey items, suggesting that a description of the diet of a fish species is not complete if only based on samples collected in a limited space and time period. This result has implications for the study of marine trophic food webs, since a generalist predator may easily and rapidly change its trophic niche, to adapt to different prey abundance and availability.