Ontogenetic and Sex-Specific Shifts in the Feeding Habits of the Barndoor Skate

paperPublished online on 23. September 2015

Ontogenetic and Sex-Specific Shifts in the Feeding Habits of the Barndoor Skate

Joseph D. Schmitt, Todd Gedamke, William D. DuPaul, John A. Musick


Diet analysis is critical in understanding the flow of energy within marine food webs and is necessary for trophic ecosystem modeling and subsequent ecosystem-based management recommendations. This study represents the first comprehensive diet description for the Barndoor Skate Dipturus laevis, the largest rajid species found on the continental shelf in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Stomach contents were extracted from 273 individual skate caught as bycatch in the commercial scallop fishery on Georges Bank and a total of 31 prey species were identified. The Barndoor Skate feeds primarily upon sand shrimp Crangon septemspinosa, the rock crab Cancer irroratus, the Acadian hermit crab Pagurus acadianus, and teleost fish. Length-specific analysis revealed four significant feeding groups (ANOVA: P < 0.01). Skate < 35 cm TL were specialized feeders foraging solely on caridean shrimp, and as size increased (35–75 cm TL), they began to feed upon rock crab and then the Acadian hermit crab. At lengths ranging from 85 to 105 cm TL, no caridean shrimp were found in the skate’s diet and the prevalence of crustaceans decreased. Large skate (>105 cm TL) began to prey heavily upon teleost fish, yet also continued to consume larger crustaceans. Significant sex-specific differences in food habits were also observed in the biggest skate (>105 cm TL): males fed primarily on teleost fish (∼80%); however, females maintained a diet of approximately equal amounts of fish and crustaceans. These sex-specific feeding patterns and differential food niche utilization may be mitigated by sexually dimorphic dentition.

Marine and Coastal Fisheries:
Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science. Volume 7, Issue 1, DOI: 10.1080/19425120.2015.1063553



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