A synthesis of large-scale patterns in the planktonic prey of larval and juvenile cod (Gadus morhua)


*e-mail: heathmr@marlab.ac.uk


Data from 40 published studies of the diet composition of larval and juvenile cod (Gadus morhua) from around the northern North Atlantic were summarized to assess generic patterns in ontogenetic and regional variability in the key prey. The results showed that larvae at the northern edge of the latitudinal range of cod depend primarily on development stages of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, whilst those at the southern edge depend on Para- and Pseudocalanus species. Juvenile cod preyed on a wider range of taxa than larvae, but euphausiids were the main target prey. Analysis of regional variations in the relative abundances of C. finmarchicus and Para/Pseudocalanus spp. in the plankton, as estimated by the continuous plankton recorder (CPR) surveys, showed a similar geographical pattern to the larval cod stomach contents. Comparison of CPR data from the 1960s and 70s with data from the 1990s showed that the boundary between C. finmarchicus and Para/Pseudocalanus spp. dominance has shifted northwards on both sides of the Atlantic, whilst the abundance of euphausiids in the southern cod stock regions has declined. The results are discussed in relation to regional differences in the response of cod stocks to climate variability.