Food habits and consumption rates of common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) in the eastern Pacific Ocean


Olson, Robert J., and Felipe Galván-Magaña
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An ecosystem approach to fisheries management requires an understanding of the impact of predatory fishes on the underlying prey resources. Defining trophic connections and measuring rates of food consumption by apex predators lays the groundwork for gaining insight into the role of predators and commercial fisheries in influencing food web structure and ecosystem dynamics. We analyzed the stomach contents of 545 common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) sampled from 74 sets of tuna purse-seine vessels fishing in the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) over a 22-month period. Stomach fullness of these dolphinfish and digestion state of the prey indicated that diel feeding periodicity varied by area and may be related to the digestibility and energy content of the prey. Common dolphinfish in the EPO appear to feed at night, as well as during the daytime. We analyzed prey importance by weight, numbers, and frequency of occurrence for five regions of the EPO. Prey importance varied by area. Flyingfishes, epipelagic cephalopods, tetraodontiform fishes, several mesopelagic fishes, Auxis spp., and gempylid fishes predominated in the diet. Ratios of prey length to predator length ranged from 0.014 to 0.720. Consumption-rate estimates averaged 5.6% of body weight per day. Stratified by sex, area, and length class, daily rations ranged up to 9.6% for large males and up to 19.8% for small dolphinfish in the east area (0–15°N, 111°W–coastline). Because common dolphinfish exert substantial predation pressure on several important prey groups, we concluded that their feeding ecology provides important clues to the pelagic food web and ecosystem structure in the EPO.