, Volume 632, Issue 1, pp 79–90 | Cite as

A spatial analysis of trophic composition: a case study of hairtail (Trichiurus japonicus) in the East China Sea

Primary research paper


The spatial distribution of fish on feeding grounds is an important factor in determining their prey composition. Of the factors that may influence the spatial distribution on the feeding ground and subsequent diet composition is the fish maturation stage. Using hairtail (Trichiurus japonicus) as an example, we evaluated the impacts of gonad development stage on diet composition. Hairtail supports one of the most valuable and largest fisheries in the East China Sea. As one of the top predators, it plays an important role in the ecosystem. We analyzed hairtail stomach samples collected on their feeding grounds from a fisheries-independent survey program in September 2005. Our analyses suggest that females in their third maturity stage tended to feed more intensively. Fish were the most important preys for hairtail, accounting for 72.6% of the total stomach contents in weight. The four most important fish species were juvenile hairtail (25.2%), Japanese scad (11.4%), Japanese jack mackerel (7.7%), and small yellow croaker (5.9%), suggesting strong cannibalism. A cluster analysis suggests that hairtail could be divided into three groups in their spatial distribution based on their diets: one group with similar percentages of fish and crustacean preys mainly distributed in the south of East China Sea far from the coast; one group mainly consuming fish and distributed over the north of East China Sea near the coast; and the third group consuming mainly crustacean species mainly distributed in the open sea. We hypothesize that gonadal development stage of hairtail may determine their movement from spawning ground to feeding ground, and subsequently spatial distribution on the feeding ground, which in turn results in different feeding intensities and prey compositions.


Trichiurus japonicus Prey composition Feeding migration Gonadal maturity Spatial distribution East China Sea 



We would like to thank Prof. Siming Zheng and Prof. Guoliang Dai for their help in identifying some preys that were difficult to identify. Thanks are also due to all scientific staff and crew for their assistance in collecting data during the surveys. A special thank goes to Rongkang Zou and Lanyin Ling for their help in lab sample analyzing and data entry, respectively. This study was conducted under the auspices of the Key and Open Laboratory of Marine and Estuarine Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture of China (Open Fund: 1-04-02), National Science and Technology Support Plan (2007BAD43B01) and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture Assessment of Marine Fisheries Resources Programme. We also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and Associate Editor Bailey for helpful and constructive comments which greatly improved the initial manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key and Open Laboratory of Marine and Estuarine Fisheries Certificated by the Ministry of Agriculture, East China Sea Fisheries Research InstituteChinese Academy of Fishery SciencesShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of Marine SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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