Etmopterus spinax is one of the most abundant predators of the upper continental slope off the Algarve (southern Portugal), where it is captured in large quantities in deep-water fisheries. The feeding habits of E. spinax off the Algarve were investigated through the analysis of stomach contents of 376 individuals. Prey composition was described and maturity, sex and size related variations in the diet analysed. The overall diet of E. spinax suggested a fairly generalized benthopelagic foraging behaviour primarily tuned to pelagic macroplankton/microneckton, teleost fish and cephalopods. Sex and maturity related differences in the diet were not significant. Two main ontogenic diet shifts were observed at about 17 and 28 cm total length. Small and medium sized immature sharks had a diet dominated by eurybathic crustaceans, chiefly Meganyctiphanes norvegica and Pasiphaea sivado. Larger individuals consumed more teleosts and cephalopods, in part associated with scavenging as a new feeding strategy. With increasing shark size the diet diversified both in terms of resources exploited and prey size.
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