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Niche overlap between juvenile flatfishes, Platichthys flesus and Solea solea, in a southern European estuary and adjacent coastal waters


Author's address: Henrique N. Cabral, Instituto de Oceanografia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, P-1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.


The distribution and abundance patterns as well as the feeding ecology of two flatfishes, Platichthys flesus (Linnaeus, 1758) and Solea solea (Linnaeus, 1758), were studied in the Douro estuary and adjacent coastal waters (Portugal) in order to evaluate the niche overlap between these species. Fish were collected during sampling surveys conducted every 2 months between November 2000 and March 2002 using a 12-m otter-trawl with 18 mm stretched mesh size, at 12 sites within the estuary and six sites in the adjacent coastal area. The highest densities of P. flesus were registered in the middle estuary; a peak density of 9.12 ind 1000 m−2 was obtained in October 2001. Solea solea densities were low compared with P. flesus; the highest values were also recorded in the middle estuary in October 2001. For both species, the proportion of juveniles was above 90% within the estuary. Highest densities of P. flesus and S. solea were recorded at sites with low water depth and high densities of crustaceans and polychaetes, the main food items in the diet of these species. High values of spatial and diet niche overlap were found between these two flatfishes (0.97 and 0.92, respectively).