Ontogenetic shifts and temporal changes in the trophic patterns of the deep-sea red shrimp, Aristaeomorpha foliacea (Decapods: Aristeidae), in the Eastern Ionian Sea (Eastern Mediterranean)


Kostas Kapiris, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biological Resources, 47o km Athens-Sounio, Mavro Lithari PO Box 712, 19013, Anavissos, Attica, Greece.E-mail: kkapir@ath.hcmr.gr


The purpose of this paper is to provide the first detailed data concerning the diet and feeding activity of the giant red shrimp, Aristaeomorpha foliacea, in the Eastern Ionian Sea (Eastern Mediterranean), in relation to season, size class and sex. Feeding activity in A. foliacea was intense, based on its low vacuity index and high prey diversity, with a diet dominated by mesopelagic prey and less frequent occurrence of benthic taxa. Giant red shrimp displayed a highly diversified diet that exhibited slight seasonal fluctuations. The diets of both sexes consisted of 60 different prey categories belonging chiefly to three groups: crustaceans (e.g. decapods, such as Plesionika spp. and Pasiphaeidae, amphipods), cephalopods (mainly Enoploteuthidae) and fishes (Myctophidae, Macrouridae). These three prey categories accounted for 72–82% of the relative abundance and total occurrence for males and 70–88% for females, respectively. Variation in food availability, as well as increased energy demands related to gonad development and breeding activity, appear to be critical factors driving temporal changes in feeding strategy. Feeding activity increased during spring and summer, which coincides with reproductive activities (mating, gonad maturation, egg-laying). Females seem to be more active predators than males, consuming prey with greater swimming ability. However, ontogenetic shifts in diet were also apparent, despite high dietary overlap among small, medium and large females. Large individuals, which are more efficient predators, selected highly mobile prey (e.g. fishes), whereas small individuals consumed low-mobility prey (e.g. copepods, ostracods, tanaids and sipunculans).