The Ongoing Shift of Mediterranean Coastal Fish Assemblages and the Spread of Non-Indigenous Species
The feeding ecology of two common indigenous (Sphyraena viridensis and Sphyraena sphyraena) and one abundant non-indigenous sphyraenid species, Sphyraena chrysotaenia, of Indo-Pacific Ocean origin, was investigated in an area of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The stomach contents of 738 individuals of varying size, collected during the period December 2008 to August 2009, were examined. The dietary analyses revealed that all three species were specialized piscivores with a diet consisting of >90% fish, both by number and mass. Concurrent sampling of the fish assemblage made it possible to calculate selectivity as well as diet breadth and overlap of these strict piscivores. Even though several prey species were found in the stomachs of the three predators examined, selectivity towards Atherina boyeri was highly significant. For all species examined, >70% of the diet by mass was made up by three indigenous species of commercial value: Spicara smaris, Boops boops and A. boyeri. Diet breadth and size of prey increased with increasing body size for all predators. With increased body size, the diet overlap between indigenous and non-indigenous species decreased. This could be attributed to increased diet breadth and the specific life-history characteristics of indigenous species developing into larger individuals. During winter, the condition factor of the non-indigenous species was significantly lower than that of the indigenous, indicating that winter conditions in the Mediterranean Sea may limit its further expansion north and westward. With this study, the gap in knowledge of the feeding preferences of the most abundant piscivorous species found in coastal areas of the study region is filled. Additionally, the results indicate that non-indigenous species familial affiliation to indigenous ones does not facilitate invasion success.