Diet and prey preferences of larval and pelagic juvenile Faroe Plateau cod (Gadus morhua)

Sólvá Jacobsen, Kristoffer Klitgaard Nielsen, Rune Kristiansen, Peter Grønkjær, Eilif Gaard, Petur Steingrund

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The availability of suitable prey during the early life of fish may determine recruitment to the adult population. Since larval and juvenile feeding can be highly selective, their preferences for certain prey species and sizes should be considered when estimating the availability of prey. In this study, diet composition (and prey preferences) of 4984 (1366) Faroe Plateau cod (Gadus morhua) larvae and juveniles between 3 and 63 mm sampled on the central Faroe shelf (62°N, 6.8°W) over an 8-year period was investigated. Cod preyed on successively larger food items as they grew. Yolk-sac larvae consumed phytoplankton, copepod eggs and nauplii before the yolk sac was exhausted. Copepod eggs followed by calanoid nauplii were the predominant and preferred food items in the early larval stage. In the late larval stage these were replaced by small to medium sized (0.6–1.2 mm) copepod species mainly Pseudocalanus sp., Acartia sp. and early stage Calanus finmarchicus, of which the two former species appeared most preferred. Temora longicornis was highly abundant in juvenile cod, but the preference for this species was neutral. Positive selection and high abundance of late stage (≥ 1.5 mm) C. finmarchicus was observed in early juveniles, but C. finmarchicus was replaced by decapod larvae in late juveniles. Other abundant prey species such as Oithona sp. and barnacle larvae occurred in varying numbers in the guts, but were generally not positively selected at any stage. Late larval and early juvenile cod appeared to suffer from unfavourable feeding conditions as they fed on smaller prey than what they prefer potentially indicating bottle necks in the feeding at these development stages
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Biology / International Journal on Life in Oceans and Coastal Waters
Issue number122
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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