Feeding ecology and trophic position of a Mediterranean endemic rayPublished online on 15. January 2013
Feeding ecology and trophic position of a Mediterranean endemic ray: consistency between sexes, maturity stages and seasons
Joan Navarro, Marta Coll, Marc Preminger, Isabel Palomera
The study of trophic ecology of marine predators is crucial to better understand the ecological factors that condition their role within marine ecosystems. Here we investigated the trophic habits and position of a Mediterranean endemic predator, the starry ray, Raja asterias. Specifically, we quantified the diet composition of this endemic ray in a highly exploited area of the NW Mediterranean, and we evaluated the effects of sex, maturity-stage and season on its feeding habits. Our results revealed that the starry ray is a predator of crustaceans (crabs and shrimps), and to a lower extent on teleosts, molluscs and polychaetes. This species has a high trophic position within its food web and feeds mainly on crabs (mainly Liocarcinus depurator and Goneplax rhomboides), independent of their sex, maturity-stage or season. The great importance of crabs in the diet of starry ray may be due to the fact that crabs are the dominant crustaceans in terms of biomass and abundance in the area where starry rays were collected, thus allowing them to exploit the most abundant food resource. Since the starry ray has shown a progressive decline on the catch, further research is needed to analyse the main drivers of starry ray dynamics in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Our results present important new data that will allow us to further explore the population dynamics of starry rays and the role of crustacean availability and fishing activity.
Environmental Biology of Fishes, January 2013, DOI 10.1007/s10641-013-0109-7