The food habits of five species of eels and one species of spiny eel collected from the upper continental slope off the Cape west coast and Agulhas Bank, South Africa, are described. All are members of a defined demersal micro- or mesocarnivore feeding guild except Simenchelys parasitica, a scavenger. Two congrids, Bassanago albescens and Gnathophis capensis, and the spiny eel Notacanthus sexspinis usually employ the demersal grazer feeding method and infrequently switch to picking nekton in the water column. Two synaphobranchids, Diastobranchus capensis and Synaphobranchus kaupii, are chiefly demersal mesocarnivores that stalk prey, but also pick nekton and scavenge. A significant amount of the prey of the three large eels, B. albescens and the two synaphobranchids, consisted mainly of mesopelagic stomiiform, myctophid and juvenile gadiform fish, penaeid and caridean shrimps and various squid taken at the bathyal/deep-pelagic interface, as was found previously with some grenadiers (Macrouridae). Five categories of fleshy remains are documented for the scavenging Simenchelys parasitica for the first time.
Keywords: Congridae, deep-sea fish, diet, eels, feeding, Notacanthidae, South Africa, spiny eels, Synaphobranchidae
African Journal of Marine Science 2005, 27(3): 557–566