Skip to main content Accessibility help

Feeding habits and trophic status of Merluccius hubbsi along the northernmost limit of its distribution in the South-western Atlantic

  • Paulo A. S. Costa (a1) (a2), Adriana C. Braga (a1), Giovanna S. Malavolti (a1), Marcos A. L. Franco (a3), Pedro V. Gatts (a2) (a3), Andressa Batista (a3) and Carlos E. Rezende (a3)...


Stomach contents analysis and stable isotope results indicate M. hubbsi is a generalist predator that feeds mainly on demersal fishes, followed by crustaceans and cephalopods. Ontogenetic changes in diet were identified, with fish importance increasing in the diet with hake size. Smaller hake (<250 mm) fed mostly on the sepiolid Semirossia tenera (89.45%IRI) and engraulid fish (89.96%IRI). Mid-sized hake (250–300 mm) fed mainly on benthic fish such as Bellator brachychir (95.63%IRI) and euphausiids (56.46%IRI), while larger hake (>300 mm) fed heavily on Dactylopterus volitans (94.80%IRI) and occasionally on a variety of teleosts. Significant correlations between δ13C (P < 0.05), THg (P < 0.001) and hake size occurred, whereas no relationship was observed between δ15N and hake size or δ15N and total mercury. Signatures were lowest in smaller hake with a tendency of increasing with size. Smaller and larger hake were significantly different in δ13C. Differences regarding isotopic niche width were quantified for each size group; trophic diversity and trophic redundancy among them were negligible, but hake >300 mm possibly have a larger feeding plasticity due to the combination of prey from a wide trophic level range.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Paulo A. S. Costa, E-mail:


Hide All
Abbey, LD, Glover-Amengor, M, Atikpo, MO and Howell, NK (2017) Proximate and biochemical characterization of burrito (Bachydeuterus auritus) and flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans). Food Science & Nutrition 5, 369373.
Alleman, MM (2013) Estrutura populacional do coió, Dactylopterus volitans (Linnaeus, 1758) (Scorpaeniformes: Dactylopteridae) no Atlântico Sudoeste, Brasil (MSc thesis). Universidade Santa Cecília, São Paulo, Brazil.
Arkhipkin, AI, Laptikhovsky, VV and Barton, AJ (2015) Biology and fishery of common hake (Merluccius hubbsi) and southern hake (Merluccius australis) around the Falkland/Malvinas Islands on the Patagonian shelf of the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. In Arancibia, H (org.), Hakes, Biology and Exploitation. Oxford: Wiley, pp. 154184.
Bastos, WR, Malm, O, Pfeiffer, WC and Cleary, D (1998) Establishment and analytical quality control of laboratories for Hg determination in biological and geological samples in the Amazon, Brazil. Technical Review. Ciência e Cultura 50, 255260.
Bearhop, S, Adams, CE, Waldron, S, Fuller, RA and MacLeod, H (2004) Determining trophic niche width: a novel approach using stable isotope analysis. Journal of Animal Ecology 73, 10071012.
Belleggia, M, Figueroa, DE, Irusta, G and Bremec, C (2014) Spatio-temporal and ontogenetic changes in the diet of the Argentine hake Merluccius hubbsi. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 94, 17011710.
Bezerra, MF, Lacerda, LD, Rezende, CE, Franco, MAL, Ameida, MG, Macedo, GR, Pires, TT, Rostán, G and Lopez, GG (2015) Food preferences and Hg distribution in Chelonia mydas assessed by stable isotopes. Environmental Pollution 206, 236246.
Bisi, TL, Lepoint, G, Azevedo, AF, Dorneles, PR, Flach, L, Das, K, Malm, O and Lailson-Brito, J (2012) Trophic relationships and mercury biomagnifications in Brazilian tropical coastal food webs. Ecological Indicators 18, 291302.
Bouillon, S, Conolly, RM and Gillian, DP (2011) Use of stable isotopes to understand food webs and ecosystem functioning in estuaries. In Polanski, E and McLusky, DS (eds), Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science. Waltham, MA: Academic Press, pp. 143173.
Carpentieri, P, Colloca, F, Cardinale, M, Belluscio, A and Ardizzone, GD (2005) Feeding habits of European hake (Merluccius merluccius) in the central Mediterranean Sea. Fishery Bulletin 103, 411416.
Cartes, JE, Hidalgo, M, Papiol, V, Massutí, E and Moranta, J (2009) Changes in the diet and feeding of the hake Merluccius merluccius at the shelf-break of the Balearic Islands: influence of the mesopelagic-boundary community. Deep-Sea Research I 56, 344365.
Chouvelon, T, Caurant, F, Cherel, Y, Simon-Bouhet, B, Spitz, J and Bustamente, P (2014) Species- and size-related patterns in stable isotopes and mercury concentrations in fish help refine marine ecosystem indicators and provide evidence for distinct management units for hake in the Northeast Atlantic. ICES Journal of Marine Science 71, 10731087.
Clarke, KR (1993) Non-parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Austral Ecology 18, 117143.
Clarke, KR and Warwick, RM (1994) Change in Marine Communities: An Approach to Statistical Analysis and Interpretation. Plymouth: Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
Cohen, DM, Inada, T, Iwamoto, T and Scialabba, N (1990) FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 10. Gadiform Fishes of the World (Order Gadiformes). An Annotated and Illustrated Catalogue of Cods, Hakes, Grenadiers and other Gadiform Fishes Known to Date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome: FAO.
Cortés, E (1997) A critical review of methods of studying fish feeding based on analysis of stomach contents: application to elasmobranch fishes. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54, 726738.
Cossa, D, Harmelin-Vivien, M, Mellon-Duval, C, Loizeau, V, Averty, B, Crochet, S, Chou, L and Cadiou, J-F (2012) Influences of bioavailability, trophic position, and growth on methylmercury in hakes (Merluccius merluccius) from northwestern Mediterranean and Northeastern Atlantic. Environmental Science & Technology 46, 48854893.
Costa, PAS, Mincarone, MM, Braga, AC, Martins, AS, Lavrado, HP, Haimovici, M and Falcão, APC (2015) Megafaunal communities along a depth gradient on the tropical Brazilian continental margin. Marine Biology Research 11, 10531064.
Costa, PAS, Braga, AC, Vieira, JMS, Martins, RRM, São-Clemente, RRB and Couto, BR (2018) Age estimation, growth and maturity of the Argentine hake (Merluccius hubbsi Marini, 1933) along the northernmost limit of its distribution in the south-western Atlantic. Marine Biology Research 14, 728738.
Di Beneditto, APM, Souza, CMM, Kerigh, H and Rezende, CE (2011) Use of multiple tools to assess the feeding preference of coastal dolphins. Marine Biology 158, 22092217.
Di Beneditto, APM, Santos, RA, Rosa, KR and Siciliano, S (2014) Magellanic penguins: stomach contents and isotopic profiles to assess the feeding demands of juveniles in a wintering area off Brazil. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 95, 423430.
Eder, EB and Lewis, MN (2005) Proximate composition and energetic value of demersal and pelagic prey species from the SW Atlantic Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 291, 4352.
Fiperj 2013. Boletim estatístico da pesca marinha no Estado do Rio de Janeiro, anos 2011 e 2012. Available at
Fry, B and Chumchal, MM (2012) Mercury bioaccumulation in estuarine food webs. Ecological Applications 22, 606623.
Garrison, LP and Link, JS (2000) Diets of five hake species in the northeast United States continental shelf ecosystem. Marine Ecology Progress Series 204, 243255.
Gasalla, MA, Rodrigues, AR and Postuma, FA (2010) The trophic role of the squid Loligo plei as a keystone species in the South Brazil Bight ecosystem. ICES Journal of Marine Science 67, 14131424.
Haimovici, M, Martins, AS and Teixeira, ERL (1993) Distribución, alimentación y observaciones sobre la reprodución de la merluza (Merluccius hubbsi) en el sur de Brasil. Frente Marítimo 14, 3340.
Harmelin-Vivien, M, Mahé, K, Bodiguel, X and Mellon-Duval, C (2012) Possible link between prey quality, condition and growth of juvenile hake (Merluccius merluccius) in the Gulf of Lions (NW Mediterranean). Cybium 36, 323328.
Hurlbert, SH and Lombardi, CM (2009) Final collapse of the Neyman-Pearson decision theoretic framework and rise of the neoFisherian. Annales Zoologici Fennici 46, 311349.
Hyslop, EJ (1980) Stomach contents analysis: a review of methods and their application. Journal of Fish Biology 17, 411429.
Iitembu, JA, Miller, TW, Ohmori, K, Kanime, A and Wells, S (2012) Comparison of ontogenetic trophic shift in two hake species, Merluccius capensis and Merluccius paradoxus, from the Northern Benguela Current ecosystem (Namibia) using stable isotope analysis. Fisheries Oceanography 21, 215225.
Irusta, CG, Macchi, GJ, Louge, E, Rodrigues, K, D’Atri, LL, Villarino, MF, Santos, B and Simonazzi, M (2016) Biology and fishery of the Argentine hake (Merluccius hubbsi). Revista de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero 28, 936.
Jackson, AL, Inger, R, Parnell, AC and Bearhop, S (2011) Comparing isotopic niche widths among and within communities: SIBER – Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses in R. Journal of Animal Ecology 80, 595602.
Kehrig, HA, Fernandes, KWG, Malm, O, Seixas, TG, Di Beneditto, APM and Souza, CMM (2009) Trophic transference of mercury and selenium in the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro. Química Nova 32, 18221828.
Koen-Alonso, M, Crespo, ES, Garcia, NA, Pedraza, SN, Mariotti, PA, Vera, BB and Mora, NJ (2001) Food habits of Dipturus chilensis (Pisces: Rajidae) off Patagonia, Argentina. ICES Journal of Marine Science 58, 288297.
Layman, CA, Arrington, DA, Montana, CG and Post, DM (2007) Can stable isotope ratios provide for community-wide measures of trophic structure? Ecology 88, 4248.
Link, JS and Garrison, LP (2002) Trophic ecology of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua on the northeast US continental shelf. Marine Ecology Progress Series 227, 109123.
Loizaga de Castro, R, Saporiti, F, Vales, DG, García, NA, Cardona, L and Crespo, EA (2016) What are you eating? A stable isotope insight into the trophic ecology of short-beaked common dolphins in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Mammalian Biology 81, 571578.
Lopez-Lopez, L, Bartolino, V and Preciado, I (2015) Role of prey abundance and geographical variables in a demersal top predator's feeding habits (Merluccius merluccius). Marine Ecology Progress Series 541, 165177.
Lorenzo, MI and Defeo, O (2015) The biology and fishery of hake (Merluccius hubbsi) in the Argentinean-Uruguayan common fishing zone of the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. In Arancibia, H (org.), Hakes, Biology and Exploitation. Oxford: Wiley, pp. 185210.
Mahe, K, Amara, R, Bryckaert, T, Kacher, M and Brylinski, JM (2007) Ontogenetic and spatial variation in the diet of hake (Merluccius merluccius) in the Bay of Biscay and the Celtic Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science 64, 12101219.
Muñoz, AA and Ojeda, FP (1998) Guild structure of carnivorous intertidal fishes of the Chilean coast: implications of ontogenetic dietary shifts. Oecologia 114, 563573.
Muto, EY and Soares, LSH (2011) Spatio-temporal variations in the diet and stable isotope composition of the Argentine hake Merluccius hubbsi Marini, 1933 of the continental shelf of southeastern Brazil. Marine Biology 158, 16191630.
Muto, EY, Soares, LSH, Sarkis, JES, Hortellani, MA, Petti, MAV and Corbisier, TN (2014) Biomagnification of mercury through the food web of the Santos continental shelf, subtropical Brazil. Marine Ecology Progress Series 512, 5569.
Nascimento, MA, Velasco, G, Okey, TA, Christensen, V and Amaral, ACZ (2012) Trophic model of the outer continental shelf and upper slope demersal community of the southern Brazilian Bight. Scientia Marina 76, 763779.
Ocampo Reinaldo, M, González, R and Romero, MA (2011) Feeding strategy and cannibalism of the Argentine hake Merluccius hubbsi. Journal of Fish Biology 79, 17951814.
Okey, TA, Banks, S, Born, AF, Bustamante, RH, Calvopiña, M, Edgar, GJ, Espinoza, E, Fariña, JM, Garske, LE, Reck, GK, Salazar, S, Shepherd, S, Toral-Granda, V and Wallem, P (2004) A trophic model of Galápagos subtidal rocky reef for evaluating fisheries and conservation strategies. Ecological Modelling 172, 383401.
Peterson, BJ and Fry, B (1987) Stable isotopes in ecosystems studies. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 18, 293320.
Pinkas, LM, Oliphant, S and Iverson, ILK (1971) Food habits of albacore, bluefin tuna and bonito in Californian waters. California Fish and Game 125, 1105.
Post, DM, Layman, CA, Arrington, DA, Takimoto, G, Quattrochi, J and Montaña, J (2007) Getting to the fat of the matter: models, methods and assumptions for dealing with lipids in stable isotope analyses. Oecologia 152, 179189.
Prenski, LB and Angelescu, V (1993) Ecología trófica de la merluza común (Merluccius hubbsi) del mar Argentino. Parte 3. Consumo anual de alimento a nivel poblacional y su relación con la explotación de las pesquerías multiespecificas. INIDEP Documento Científico, no. 1, 188 pp.
R Development Core Team (2018) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Available at
Rexstad, EA and Pikitch, EK (1986) Stomach contents and food consumption estimates of Pacific hake, Merluccius productus. Fishery Bulletin 84, 947956.
Sackett, DK, Cope, WG, Rice, JA and Aday, DD (2013) The influence of fish length on tissue mercury dynamics: implications for natural resource management and human health risk. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10, 638659.
Sala, JE, Wilson, RP, Frere, E and Quintana, F (2012) Foraging effort in Magellanic penguins in coastal Patagonia, Argentina. Marine Ecology Progress Series 464, 273287.
Santos, RA and Haimovici, M (1998) Trophic relationships of the long-finned squid Loligo sanpaulensis on the southern Brazilian shelf. South African Journal of Marine Science 20, 8191.
Santos, RA and Haimovici, M (2001) Cephalopods in the diet of marine mammals stranded or incidentally caught along southeastern and southern Brazil (21–34oS). Fisheries Research 52, 99112.
Segadilha, JL, Nascimento, PS, Mauro, FM, Serejo, CS, Ramos, TR, Cardoso, IA, Martins, AS and Costa, PAS (2018) The carcinofauna found in stomach contents of the flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) on the continental shelf of the Campos Basin, Brazil. Journal of Natural History 52, 111.
Soares, LSH, Muto, EY, Lopez, JP, Clauzet, GRV and Valiela, I (2014) Seasonal variability of δ13C and δ15N of fish and squid in the Cabo Frio upwelling system of the southwestern Atlantic. Marine Ecology Progress Series 512, 921.
Stott, FC (1982) Notes on the biology of the Patagonian hake, Merluccius hubbsi (Marini), the southern blue whiting, Micromesistius australis (Norman) and others in the Falkland Islands shelf area. Journal of Fish Biology 21, 705714.
Temperoni, B, Viñas, MD and Buratti, CC (2013) Feeding strategy of juvenile (age-0+ year) Argentine hake Merluccius hubbsi in the Patagonian nursery ground. Journal of Fish Biology 83, 13541370.
Treiman, DM and Adams, DH (2012) Mercury and sea basses from the Gulf of Mexico: relationships with size, age and feeding ecology. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 141, 12471286.
Vaske, T Jr, Travassos, PR, Hazin, FHV, Tolotti, MT and Barbosa, TC (2012) Forage fauna in the diet of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) in the Western Tropical Atlantic Ocean. Brazilian Journal of Oceanography 60, 8997.
Vaz-dos-Santos, AM and Schwingel, PR (2015) Biology and fisheries of hake (Merluccius hubbsi) in Brazilian waters, Southwest Atlantic. In Arancibia, H (org.), Hakes, Biology and Exploitation. Oxford: Wiley, pp. 211233.
Vaz-dos-Santos, AM and Rossi-Wongtschowski, CLDB (2005) Merluccius hubbsi marini, 1933. In Cergole, MC, Ávila-da-Silva, AO and Rossi-Wongtschowski, CLDB (eds), Análise das principais pescarias comerciais da região sudeste-sul do Brasil: dinâmica populacional das espécies em explotação. São Paulo: Instituto Oceanográfico-USP, pp. 8893.
Vecchione, M, Roper, CFE, Sweeney, MJ and Lu, CC (2001) Distribution, relative abundance and developmental morphology of paralarval cephalopods in the Western North Atlantic Ocean. NOAA Technical Report NMFS 152, 158.
Yasue, N, Doiuchi, R and Takasuda, A. (2014) Trophodynamic similarities of three sympatric clupeoid species throughout their life histories in the Kii Channel as revealed by stable isotope approach. ICES Journal of Marine Science 71, 4455.


Feeding habits and trophic status of Merluccius hubbsi along the northernmost limit of its distribution in the South-western Atlantic

  • Paulo A. S. Costa (a1) (a2), Adriana C. Braga (a1), Giovanna S. Malavolti (a1), Marcos A. L. Franco (a3), Pedro V. Gatts (a2) (a3), Andressa Batista (a3) and Carlos E. Rezende (a3)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed