Stable isotope evidence of food web connectivity by a top predatory fish (Argyrosomus japonicus: Sciaenidae: Teleostei) in the Kowie Estuary, South Africa
AbstractIn this study, food web connectivity within the Kowie Estuary on the south-east coast of South Africa was evidenced by the trophic behaviour of the predominantly piscivorous Argyrosomus japonicus. We examined stable isotopes of carbon (δ 13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) in the dominant consumers (zooplankton, invertebrates and fishes) and food sources (particulate organic matter, epibionts and benthic microalgae) in the system. An SIAR (Stable Isotope Analysis in R) mixing model was used to interpret the possible food sources for this dominant top predatory fish. Small fishes and large epibenthic invertebrates dominated the diet of A. japonicus. Based on the contrasting diet of these prey fish and invertebrates, we propose that organic matter enters the predatory fish community via two major pathways: (1) a littoral pathway dominated by benthic microalgae production and epibionts, and (2) a channel pathway dominated by suspended particulate organic matter (including phytoplankton). We conclude that the highly mobile A. japonicus consumes both pelagic and benthic fauna from the littoral and channel zones of the estuary, thereby playing a key functional role in linking food webs. This dietary diversity may help explain the success of A. japonicus as a dominant top predator in the system, primarily by increasing the energy available to this species.
Keywords: diet diversity, food webs, stable isotopes, trophic connectivity
African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(2): 207–213