Food of an endangered cyprinodont (Aphanius Iberus): Ontogenetic diet shift and prey electivity

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We studied the ontogenetic diet shift and prey electivity of an endangered cyprinodontid fish endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish toothcarp (Aphanius iberus). The toothcarp’s diet was omnivorous, dominated by harpacticoid copepods (Mesochra lilljeborgi and Tisbe longicornis), copepod nauplii and detritus. Diet composition varied greatly among habitats, depending on prey availability. In a rarely inundated habitat (glasswort), there was more consumption of the isopod Protracheoniscus occidentalis and the harpacticoid copepod Mesochra lilljeborgi, while in algal mats another harpacticoid (Tisbe longicornis), chironomid dipterans and invertebrate eggs were more important in diet. Although a benthic feeding habitat has previously been suggested, in our study the diet was based rather on water column organisms for both glasswort and algal mat habitats. There was also an ontogenetic diet shift, with an increase of mean prey length with fish length, clearly linked to a microhabitat change. Smaller fish showed positive electivity and greater reliance on planktonic prey (e.g. copepod nauplii, the harpacticoid copepods Mesochra lilljeborgi and Tisbe longicornis, the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis, and ostracods), while larger fish elected and preyed on more benthic organisms (e.g. Canuella perplexa, Mesochra rapiens, and ephydrid dipterans) ​
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