Stagioni M., Montanini S., Vallisneri M. 2011. Feeding habits of European hake, Merluccius merluccius (Actinopterygii: Gadiformes: Merlucciidae), from the northeastern Mediterranean Sea. Acta Ichthyol. Piscat. 41 (4): 277–284.
European hake, Merluccius merluccius, is a major predator in demersal ecosystem, and of great importance for the fishery. Knowledge of the feeding ecology of fish species is essential for implementing a multispecies approach to fishery management. Therefore this work was intended to analyse stomach contents and dietary changes according to fish size, season, sex, and depth to better understanding the ecological role of this species in Adriatic demersal marine communities.
Materials and methods.
A total of 1646 specimens of hake were collected in the Adriatic Sea by oceanographic bottom trawl surveys carried out from 2005 to 2006 during summer- and winter seasons. Principal feeding indices, species diversity Bray–Curtis similarity index, feeding strategy plot, barplot on numeric, and weight abundance data were obtained in order to increase knowledge on the diet of hake.
The hake diet mainly consisted of crustaceans (particularly Decapoda) and teleosts (particularly European anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus, and red bandfish, Cepola macrophthalma). Cluster analysis of %N (numeric prey abundance percent) showed different feeding habits of three mainly groups: small hakes (<150 mm), medium sized hakes (from 150 to 300 mm) and large hake (> 300 mm) from crustaceans (small specimens) to teleost fishes (medium and large specimens).
Feeding habits were size-dependant with fish diet being higher in stomachs of larger specimens. Feeding activity seemed to increase during growth, being smaller in immature individuals compared to adults, while no differences were found between females and males diet. Seasonal variation in diet showed an increase of teleost fishes in winter and crustaceans in summer.
Merluccius merluccius, feeding habits, diet, northeastern Mediterranean Sea