Dietary compositions of the sparid Acanthopagrus butcheri in three normally closed and variably hypersaline estuaries differ markedly

  • Benjamin M. Chuwen
  • Margaret E. Platell
  • Ian C. Potter
Original Paper


We have compared the species composition and diversity of the diets of black bream, Acanthopagrus butcheri, in three normally closed estuaries on the central south coast of Western Australia, which vary markedly in the extents to which they become hypersaline during dry periods. Although black bream was caught seasonally in Stokes Inlet during this 3-year study, it was obtained from the Hamersley and Culham inlets only during the earlier seasons because salinities in those two estuaries subsequently rose to levels that caused massive mortalities of this sparid. Although a wide range of taxa, including macrophytes, polychaetes, molluscs, crustaceans, insects and teleosts, were ingested by A. butcheri in each estuary, the frequencies of ingestion and volumetric dietary contributions of these taxa varied greatly among the fish in these three estuaries. Thus, for example, in comparison with other estuaries, relatively greater contributions were made to the diet by polychaetes and crustaceans in Stokes Inlet, by macrophytes in Hamersley Inlet, and by insects (mainly chironomid larvae) in Culham Inlet. The relatively greater contribution of teleosts to the diets of black bream in the Hamersley and Culham inlets than in Stokes Inlet, and also differences in the main teleost species ingested in the first two estuaries, are consistent with differences in the densities of fish overall and of the main fish species in those estuaries. The diversity of the diet was far greater in Stokes Inlet than in the other two far more variably saline estuaries, presumably reflecting a greater diversity of food. The dietary compositions of black bream in upstream pools in the tributary of Culham Inlet, which offer refuge when salinities increase markedly in the main body of the estuary, differ from those in those downstream regions, further emphasising the opportunistic nature of the feeding behaviour of black bream. The dietary compositions of black bream underwent size-related changes, but the taxa contributing most to those changes varied greatly among estuaries. Size-related changes would be particularly beneficial in reducing intraspecific competition for food in the two estuaries that vary greatly in salinity and would thus be likely to contain a less diverse range of prey.


Sparidae Diets Composition Diversity Opportunism Normally closed estuaries 



Thanks are extended to Steeg Hoeksema for help with collecting samples and identifying teleost prey, to John Huisman for identifying the macrophytes and to Michelle Wildsmith and Mat Hourston for assisting with identifying the polychaetes and molluscs. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (Australia) and Murdoch University funded this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin M. Chuwen
    • 1
  • Margaret E. Platell
    • 1
  • Ian C. Potter
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, School of Biological Sciences and BiotechnologyMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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