Albaina, X. Irigoien, U. Aldalur, U. Cotano, M. Santos, G. Boyra and A. Estonba
Prog. Oceanogr., 131: 82-99, (2015)
In order to investigate the role of predation on eggs and larvae in the recruitment of anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus), sardine (Sardina pilchardus), sprat (Sprattus sprattus) and 52 macrozooplankton taxa were assayed for anchovy remains in the gut during the 2010 spawning season using a molecular method. This real-time PCR based assay was capable of detecting 0.005 ng of anchovy DNA (roughly 1/100 of a single egg assay) in a reliable way and allowed detecting predation events up to 6 h after ingestion by small zooplankton taxa. A total of 1069 macrozooplankton individuals, 237 sardines and 213 sprats were tested. Both fish species and 32 macrozooplankton taxa showed remains of anchovy DNA within their stomach contents. The two main findings are (1) that the previously neglected macrozooplankton impact in anchovy eggs/larvae mortality is in the same order of magnitude of that due to planktivorous fishes and that, (2) the predation pressure was notably different in the two main spawning centers of Bay of Biscay anchovy. While relatively low mortality rates were recorded at the shelf-break spawning center, a higher predation pressure from both fish and macrozooplankton was exerted at the shelf one.