Estimating the encounter rate of Atlantic capelin (Mallotus villosus) with fish eggs, based on stomach content analysis


Pepin, Pierre
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The number of pelagic fish eggs (cod and cunner) found in stomachs of capelin (Mallotus villosus) sampled in coastal Newfoundland was used to estimate the encounter rates between capelin and prey, and thus the effective volume swept by capelin. Fish eggs were found in 4−8% of capelin stomachs, represented an average of 1% of prey by numbers, and their abundance increased as relative stomach fullness decreased. The average number of eggs per stomach doubled for each 5-cm increase in length of capelin. The effective volume swept for eggs by capelin ranged from 0.04 to 0.84 m3/h—a rate that implies either very slow capelin swimming speeds (<1 cm/s) or that fish eggs are not strongly selected as prey. The predation rate estimated from stomach contents was higher than that predicted from laboratory studies of feeding pelagic fish and lower than that predicted by a simple foraging model. It remains uncertain whether capelin play an important regulatory role in the dynamics of early life stages of other fish.