Overlooked small and juvenile piscivores dominate shallow-water estuarine "refuges" in tropical Australia

Baker, Ron, and Sheaves, Marcus (2009) Overlooked small and juvenile piscivores dominate shallow-water estuarine "refuges" in tropical Australia. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science , 85 (4). pp. 618-626.

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Abstract

A model was developed to estimate the relative impacts of different functional groups of piscivores on the shallow-water estuarine nursery assemblage of tropical north-eastern Australia. Data on variability in the occurrence, number and type of fish in the diet of different piscivores was combined with estimates of the abundance of each group. The model predicts that previously overlooked small and occasional or ‘minor’ piscivores, such as sillaginids, ambassids, sparids and small juvenile carangids, inflict mortality on new recruits to shallow-water nursery habitats that is orders of magnitude greater than that imparted by more conspicuous larger piscivores. Because of their high abundance, a shift in the diet of minor piscivores to prey on new recruits results in a massive increase in the consumption of fish prey by the piscivore assemblage as a whole. Even if the evidence that minor piscivores switch to target new recruits was rejected, the model shows that the highly abundant minor piscivores must still exert a significant proportion of predation mortality experienced by recruiting fishes. As a broad functional group, minor piscivores occur in most aquatic systems around the globe and are likely to play an important but largely overlooked role as predators that shape communities through predation on critical early life stages of other fishes.

Item ID: 8475
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: nursery grounds; tropical estuary; recruitment; stomach content analysis; predation; Australia; tropical north-eastern Queensland
ISSN: 1096-0015
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2010 01:18
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 7
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