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DNA barcoding identifies a cosmopolitan diet in the ocean sunfish

DNA barcoding identifies a cosmopolitan diet in the ocean sunfish
DNA barcoding identifies a cosmopolitan diet in the ocean sunfish
The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is the world’s heaviest bony fish reaching a body mass of up to 2.3 tonnes. However, the prey M. mola consumes to fuel this prodigious growth remains poorly known. Sunfish were thought to be obligate gelatinous plankton feeders, but recent studies suggest a more generalist diet. In this study, through molecular barcoding and for the first time, the diet of sunfish in the north-east Atlantic Ocean was characterised. Overall, DNA from the diet content of 57 individuals was successfully amplified, identifying 41 different prey items. Sunfish fed mainly on crustaceans and teleosts, with cnidarians comprising only 16% of the consumed prey. Although no adult fishes were sampled, we found evidence for an ontogenetic shift in the diet, with smaller individuals feeding mainly on small crustaceans and teleost fish, whereas the diet of larger fish included more cnidarian species. Our results confirm that smaller sunfish feed predominantly on benthic and on coastal pelagic species, whereas larger fish depend on pelagic prey. Therefore, sunfish is a generalist predator with a greater diversity of links in coastal food webs than previously realised. Its removal as fisheries’ bycatch may have wider reaching ecological consequences, potentially disrupting coastal trophic interactions.
1-9
Sousa, Lara L.
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Xavier, Raquel
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Costa, Vânia
d1d1c227-d868-4cd4-bece-1c200ee44b04
Humphries, Nicolas E.
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Trueman, Clive
d00d3bd6-a47b-4d47-89ae-841c3d506205
Rosa, Rui
ae4e45af-23f7-400c-a9d5-e08f88a15289
Sims, David W.
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Queiroz, Nuno
1b1b741e-a2ee-49c2-bbcc-2864044ba8e3
Sousa, Lara L.
c354935e-d106-48cb-b30a-7aa1e21bfee6
Xavier, Raquel
a46c4a4a-aa81-42a1-86e0-2a7536b5060b
Costa, Vânia
d1d1c227-d868-4cd4-bece-1c200ee44b04
Humphries, Nicolas E.
9246d06a-396a-4c05-9721-dc340e75a4d0
Trueman, Clive
d00d3bd6-a47b-4d47-89ae-841c3d506205
Rosa, Rui
ae4e45af-23f7-400c-a9d5-e08f88a15289
Sims, David W.
7234b444-25e2-4bd5-8348-a1c142d0cf81
Queiroz, Nuno
1b1b741e-a2ee-49c2-bbcc-2864044ba8e3

Sousa, Lara L., Xavier, Raquel, Costa, Vânia, Humphries, Nicolas E., Trueman, Clive, Rosa, Rui, Sims, David W. and Queiroz, Nuno (2016) DNA barcoding identifies a cosmopolitan diet in the ocean sunfish. Scientific Reports, 6 (28762), 1-9. (doi:10.1038/srep28762).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is the world’s heaviest bony fish reaching a body mass of up to 2.3 tonnes. However, the prey M. mola consumes to fuel this prodigious growth remains poorly known. Sunfish were thought to be obligate gelatinous plankton feeders, but recent studies suggest a more generalist diet. In this study, through molecular barcoding and for the first time, the diet of sunfish in the north-east Atlantic Ocean was characterised. Overall, DNA from the diet content of 57 individuals was successfully amplified, identifying 41 different prey items. Sunfish fed mainly on crustaceans and teleosts, with cnidarians comprising only 16% of the consumed prey. Although no adult fishes were sampled, we found evidence for an ontogenetic shift in the diet, with smaller individuals feeding mainly on small crustaceans and teleost fish, whereas the diet of larger fish included more cnidarian species. Our results confirm that smaller sunfish feed predominantly on benthic and on coastal pelagic species, whereas larger fish depend on pelagic prey. Therefore, sunfish is a generalist predator with a greater diversity of links in coastal food webs than previously realised. Its removal as fisheries’ bycatch may have wider reaching ecological consequences, potentially disrupting coastal trophic interactions.

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Accepted/In Press date: 7 June 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 July 2016
Published date: 4 July 2016
Organisations: Geochemistry

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Local EPrints ID: 397753
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/397753
PURE UUID: a8871ee4-cae5-4f85-b31a-f524bad024d8

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Date deposited: 05 Jul 2016 12:51
Last modified: 02 Dec 2019 20:05

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