Comparative trophic ecology of Cape anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus and Natal anchovy Stolephorus holodon off South Africa’s east coast
The distributional ranges of Cape anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus and Natal anchovy Stolephorus holodon presently overlap at their eastern and western extremes, respectively, off South Africa’s east coast. These species might become more strongly sympatric as a consequence of changed distributions caused by climate change, possibly leading to intensified interspecific competition for trophic and other resources. A comparative analysis of the trophodynamics of the two species, which set out to assess elements of current niche partitioning between them, was conducted through morphological, dietary and stable-isotope analyses of specimens caught off South Africa’s east coast. Cape anchovy have larger gillraker spacing, gain the majority of their dietary carbon from large (>3 000 μm total length) planktonic crustaceans and occupy a higher trophic level than Natal anchovy, which have smaller gillraker spacing and gain the majority of their dietary carbon from planktonic crustaceans of two size classes (900–1 400 μm and 2 800–3 200 μm total length). These results indicate an element of trophic partitioning between the two species that will mitigate against interspecific competition.
Keywords: Engraulidae, gillraker morphology, prey items, resource partitioning, stable isotopes, stomach contents, trophodynamics, western Indian Ocean