Hagfish feeding habits along a depth gradient inferred from stable isotopes

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© Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Massey University and GNS Science 2013. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are un restricted. Author(s) and original publication must be credited.
Feeding habits of 3 hagfish species were investigated along a depth gradient (~50 to 900 m) in New Zealand using nitrogen (?15N) and carbon (?13C) stable isotopes. Neomyxine biniplicata had the lowest mean ?15N value (14.2%), followed by Eptatretus cirrhatus (14.9 %) and Eptatretus sp. 1 (15.8%). Neomyxine biniplicata (~50 m depth) was characterized by (1) relative low lipid content in muscles and (2) consistent body condition index which together with its trophic position indicated that this species probably acquires its food by active predation, supplemented by opportunistic scavenging. Eptatretus cirrhatus (48 to 912 m) and Eptatretus sp. 1 (290 to 922 m) had similar morphology, but their ?15N signature indicated that they were feeding on slightly different trophic levels. For Eptatretus sp. 1, the combination of (1) variable lipid content, indicating phases of feeding and fasting, (2) decreasing body condition index with depth, indicating less regular feeding at depth, (3) increasing ?15N with depth and (4) decreasing ?13C signature with depth, pointed towards a feeding behaviour specialized in scavenging on large but rare falls of high-level predators such as whales, sharks or bony fishes. On the other hand, E. cirrhatus was characterized by (1) less variable lipid content, (2) a body condition index not influenced by depth, (3) ?15N values decreasing with depth and ?13C values constant across its depth range, which is likely to indicate a more opportunistic and mobile feeding behaviour on a range of prey © 2013 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Massey University and GNS Science.
Fish, Ecology, Nitrogen, Carbon, Body condition index, Lipid content, Eptatretus, Neomyxine
MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES, 2013, 485 pp. 223 - U266