The diurnal vertical dynamics of cape hake and their potential prey
AbstractThe Cape hakes Merluccius capensis and M. paradoxus are dominant predators over the Namibian shelf. They are found in a water column that includes myctophids and other mesopelagic fish, euphausiids and
cephalopods. Together with their cohabitant potential prey, hake are known to undertake diurnal vertical migrations, aggregating near the bottom during daylight, but migrating off the bottom at night. An attempt to determine the underlying mechanisms of this diurnal migration by means of underwater acoustics and trawling was made at a single location on the central Namibian shelf at a depth of 350 m during four consecutive days in April 1996. Large M. capensis, 50–75 cm total length, dominated just over the sea bed, whereas 30–40 cm M. paradoxus were most abundant 5–50 m off the bottom, suggesting that the smaller M. paradoxus had to remain higher in the water column to avoid being eaten by the larger M. capensis. Large hake of both species preyed preferentially on fish, whereas the smaller hake preferred euphausiids, although there was some evidence of euphausiid consumption by most hake. There was no distinct daily feeding rhythm in either species of hake, although there was some evidence of evening predation dominating. This may indicate a feeding strategy where vision is not important.