The feeding ecology of southern garfish, Hyporhamphus melanochir, in South Australia was investigated to determine the dietary composition and diurnal feeding patterns, especially in relation to a hypothesised relationship between prey availability and feeding patterns. Samples of H. melanochir were collected at different times of the day and night during autumn and winter, and assigned to 3-hourly intervals. The dietary composition and feeding patterns were determined from gut contents analysis. The main food items were seagrasses (Zosteraceae) and hyperbenthic crustaceans, mainly amphipods. Polychaetes and insects were also consumed. A clear diurnal trophic shift was evident: seagrass was consumed in large volumes during the day, whilst hyperbenthic invertebrates dominated the diet during the night. Plankton samples indicated that this trophic shift reflected the higher abundances of hyperbenthic invertebrates in the water column at night. Less time was spent consuming seagrass during winter, coinciding with shorter day-lengths. H. melanochir has a strong trophic association with seagrass beds, which may account for the high garfish abundance in northern Gulf St. Vincent where extensive Zosteracean seagrass beds occur. This may be useful fundamental information for future environmentally-based fishery management decisions to help ensure the sustainability of southern garfish population and the ecosystem of which it is a part.
- Habitat associations
- Seagrass beds