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Consumption and prey size selection of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans by different juvenile stages of freshwater fish

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Meiofauna, and nematodes in particular, play an essential role in the diet of certain juvenile freshwater fish. However, the specific consumption and prey size selection of fishes on nematodes is largely unrecognised. In this study, the effects of different juvenile stages of widely distributed common European freshwater fish, gudgeon (Gobio gobio), roach (Rutilus rutilus), ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), and two strains of common carp (Cyprinus carpio (scaled) and C. carpio (mirror)), on abundances of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans were investigated in controlled laboratory experiments with a known number of prey. Gudgeon, carp (scaled), and carp (mirror) consumed significant amounts of nematodes, whereas the roach and ninespine stickleback did not. Both strains of common carp reduced nematode abundance dependent on the size of the fish, with smaller fish causing a greater reduction than medium-size or large fish, although fish of all sizes fed significantly on nematodes of all size classes (<0.5, 0.5-1.0 and >1.0 mm). While the gudgeon also reduced nematode abundance dependent on the size of the fish, with increasing body length there was a dietary shift towards larger nematode size classes (0.5-1.0 and >1.0 mm). Morphometric analysis of the branchial basket indicated that the mesh width of gudgeon and both strains of common carp, but not of roach and ninespine stickleback, is suitable for feeding on specific size classes of nematodes. Together, the results showed that nematodes are used as a food source for different juvenile stages of certain species of freshwater fish.

Affiliations: 1: Animal Ecology, Bielefeld University, Morgenbreede 45, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany


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