MARINE BIODIVERSITY, vol.49, no.4, pp.1799-1812, 2019 (SCI-Expanded)
In the South Eastern Black Sea, anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), sprat (Sprattus sprattus), and horse mackerel (Trachurus mediterraneus) are the most important small pelagic fish both ecologically and economically. The stomach contents of 1485 fish, including anchovy, sprat, and horse mackerel, were examined. Fish fed on 35 prey taxa, and there were dietary differences among predators. Anchovies predominantly consumed calanoid copepods and bivalves; sprats had a diet dominated by calanoid copepods and Chaetognatha (Parasagitta setosa); horse mackerel consumed mainly decapods and calanoid copepods. Copepods in the stomachs of sprat were more abundant and more frequent than in the stomachs of anchovy or horse mackerel during all year. As the anchovies and horse mackerel grew, their copepod consumption increased, but despite their size, sprats consumed a similar amount of copepods. Seasonal shifts in diet were observed in all three species. In winter and autumn months, all small pelagic fish consumed copepod species. The bivalve larvae were mostly consumed in summer by anchovies (N%: 72.98) and in spring by sprats and horse mackerel (N%: 88.59 and 81.08, respectively). Decapod species were preferred in spring months by horse mackerel. P. setosa was mostly consumed in autumn and winter by sprat. Anchovy showed a low dietary overlap with sprat but had a high dietary overlap with horse mackerel. The feeding strategy of anchovy seems to be mixed, while horse mackerel is a generalist at the individual level, and sprat is a specialist at the population level.