Trophic ecology of abundant reef fish in a remote oceanic island: coupling diet and feeding morphology at the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, Chile
The trophic structure of organisms is an important aspect of the ecosystem as it describes how energy is transferred between different trophic levels. Here, we studied the diet and foraging ecology of 144 individuals belonging to five abundant fish species of subtidal habitats at Isla Robinson Crusoe. Sampling was conducted during the austral spring and summer of 2007 and 2008, respectively. The shallow subtidal habitat is mainly characterized by the abundance of two types of habitat: foliose algae and encrusting invertebrates. Diet and trophic characteristic of fishes were obtained by volumetric contribution and frequency of occurrence of each prey item. Of the five species studied, one is herbivorous (juvenile Scorpis chilensis), four are omnivores (Nemadactylus gayi, Malapterus reticulatus, Pseudocaranx chilensis and Scorpis chilensis adult), and one carnivore (Hypoplectrodes semicinctum). The dietary diversity index was relatively low compared to other temperate reef systems, which could indicate a low availability of prey items for coastal fishes. The morphological parameters indicated that cranial structures and pairs of pectoral fins influence the foraging behaviour. Differences in fin aspect ratio among species provided insight about fish depth distribution and feeding behaviour. These results suggest important adaptive changes in the depth gradient of fishes in the subtidal environments of this island. According to our records, this is the first attempt to characterize the trophic ecology of the subtidal fish assemblages at Juan Fernandez Archipelago, revealing the need for testing hypotheses related to selective traits that may enhance species coexistence in oceanic islands.