Feeding habits of the spotback skate Atlantoraja castelnauiPublished online on 28. November 2011
Feeding habits of a large endangered skate from the south-west Atlantic: the spotback skate, Atlantoraja castelnaui
Santiago A. Barbini and Luis O. Lucifora
Elasmobranch predation has important effects on marine ecosystems. Identifying the main correlates of the feeding habits of skates is of paramount importance for determining their ecological role. We tested the hypotheses that the diet of the spotback skate, Atlantoraja castelnaui, off Uruguay and northern Argentina, changes with increasing body size, between seasons and regions and that prey size increased with predator’s size using a multiple-hypothesis modelling approach. A. castelnaui preyed mainly on teleosts, followed by cephalopods, elasmobranchs and decapods. Small individuals of A. castelnaui consumed decapods and large individuals ate elasmobranchs and cephalopods. The consumption of teleosts was constant along the ontogeny but differed between seasons; more demersal-benthic teleosts were consumed in the cold season, whereas more benthic teleosts were eaten in the warm season. Also, A. castelnaui consumed more cephalopods in the warm season than in the cold season. Benthic teleosts were consumed more in the south region, whereas decapods were eaten more in the north region. A. castelnaui is able to consume larger teleosts as it grows. We conclude that A. castelnaui is a versatile, mainly piscivorous, consumer that shifts its diet with increasing body size and in response to seasonal and regional changes in prey abundance or distribution.
Marine and Freshwater Research, Online Early Issue – http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF11170