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Moon phase influences the diet of southern Ray's bream Brama australis

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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel.: +64 4 386 0812; email: p.horn@niwa.co.nz

Abstract

Diet composition of the southern Ray's bream Brama australis was examined from stomach contents of 399 specimens sampled by bottom trawl on Chatham Rise to the east of South Island, New Zealand, over 3 years. Prey items were predominantly mesopelagic fishes and crustaceans. Multivariate analysis indicated that moon phase explained more of the diet variability than any other predictor examined. It appears likely that diet composition is influenced by a combination of changes in both tidal flows and illumination. Different combinations of prey were consumed by B. australis at different times of the lunar cycle. An influence of moon phase on feeding by fishes has rarely been reported, but it is likely that moon phase influences the diets of other species that specialize in mesopelagic prey. The most important prey group by mass for B. australis was Myctophidae (primarily Lampanyctodes hectoris), followed by Stomiiformes (primarily Maurolicus australis) and shrimps (Sergestes spp). An ontogenetic shift in diet was observed, from numerical dominance by small crustaceans including amphipods and euphausiids (with some fishes) in smaller (mass <1045 g) B. australis to pelagic teleost prey (with a few larger crustaceans) in larger (>1440 g) B. australis.

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Ancillary