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Diet and feeding strategy of thornback ray Raja clavata


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The diet and feeding strategy of thornback ray Raja clavata, from the eastern-central Adriatic Sea, were investigated. Stomach contents of 428 specimens, total length (LT) of 14·0–75·1 cm, were collected from commercial bottom trawls. The prey items identified in the stomachs belong to eight major groups: Cephalopoda, Polychaeta, Stomatopoda, Decapoda (Natantia and Reptantia), Mysidacea, Isopoda, Amphipoda and Teleostei. Decapods were the most important prey (index of relative important, %IRI,= 72·8) followed by teleosts (%IRI = 20·4), whereas other prey groups were only occasionally ingested. Small-sized individuals (<25 cm LT) fed primarily on small crustaceans (mysids and amphipods), whereas large-sized specimens consumed larger prey, such as decapods, cephalopods and teleosts. Diet composition showed little seasonal variation; decapods were the most important prey in all seasons. There was high dietary similarity between sampling locations. The percentage of empty stomachs did not differ significantly among size classes and seasons. In terms of composition by species, the diet of R. clavata was characterized by a variety of rare or unimportant prey. As a result, R. clavata could be considered a generalist predator.