Temporal and spatial dietary dynamics of the longspine glassy (Ambassis ambassis) in the St Lucia estuarine system, iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Among the 155 recorded fish species in the St Lucia estuarine system, Ambassis ambassis is one of the most prominent. After a decade dominated by dry and hypersaline conditions, the St Lucia system has changed dramatically with the onset of a new wet phase in 2011. In response, A. ambassis has expanded its distribution throughout the system. Stable ä15N and ä13C isotope analysis was used in conjunction with gut content analysis to elucidate the diet of this species at 5 representative sampling localities. Zooplankton as well as terrestrial and aquatic insects were prevalent in the diet. Non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis revealed a considerable dietary overlap for the fish collected at the different localities. Seasonally, trophic position differed significantly, with the dry season showing consistently higher isotopic signatures at all sites. A significant relationship was identified between trophic position, salinity and temperature, indicating the potential effect of these variables on the diet. The ability of A. ambassis to link lower trophic level organisms, such as zooplankton, with larger piscivorous predators is thus indicative of the vital role this species occupies in the food webs of the St Lucia system.
Keywords: Ambassis ambassis, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, stable isotopes, gut content analysis, fish diet