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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 1997

Habitat choice by juvenile cod (Gadus morhua L.) on sandy soft bottoms with different vegetation types

Borg, Å; Pihl, Leif; Wennhage, Håkan


Habitat choice by juvenile cod ( Gadus morhua L.) on sandy bottoms with different vegetation types was studied in laboratory. The experiment was conducted day and night in flow-through tanks on two different size-classes of cod (7-13 and 17-28 cm TL). Four habitats, typical of shallow soft bottoms on the Swedish west coast: Fucus vesiculosus, Zostera marina, Cladophora sp. and bare sand, were set up pair-wise in six combinations. The main difference between habitats in this study was vegetation structure, since all parameters except vegetation type was considered equal for both sides of the experimental tanks and natural prey was eliminated. The results showed a difference in habitat utilization by juvenile cod between day (light) and night (dark). During day time the fishes showed a significant preference for vegetation, while nocturnally no significant choice of habitat was made. Both size-classes preferred Fucus, considered the most complex habitat in this study, when this was available. The smaller size-class seemed to be able to utilize the other vegetation types as well, always preferring vegetation over sand. Larger juvenile cod, on the other hand, appeared to be restricted to Fucus. This difference in habitat choice by the two size-classes might be due to a greater dependence on shelter from predation by the smaller juveniles, causing them to associate more strongly with vegetation. The larger juveniles avoided Cladophora, since they might have difficulties in entering the compact structure of this filamentous algae. Availability of vegetation at day time, as a predation refuge, as well as of open sandy areas for feeding during night, thus seems to be important for juvenile cod. It is concluded that eutrophication-induced changes in habitat structure, such as increased dominance by filamentous algae, could alter the availability of predation refuges and foraging habitats for juvenile cod.

Published in

Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen
1997, Volume: 51, number: 2, pages: 197-212

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