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Research article2002Peer reviewed

Vulnerability of newly settled plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) to predation: effects of habitat structure and predator functional response

Wennhage, Håkan


Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) nursery grounds on the Swedish west coast have been subject to increasing cover of annual green macroalgae during recent years, with growth of algae starting at the time of plaice settlement in April to May. A laboratory experiment was performed to investigate how the vulnerability to predation of metamorphosing plaice was affected by the presence of filamentous algae. Predation by shrimps (Crangon crangon) on settling plaice larvae was higher on sand than among algae, whereas predation by crabs (Carcinus maenas) was unaffected by habitat type, suggesting a lower overall mortality of plaice in the vegetated habitat. When predators and prey were presented with a combination of the two habitats, predation by shrimps was as high as that in the sand treatment alone, whereas predation by crabs was lower than that in the two treatments with one habitat. Based on these results, an additional experiment was performed, investigating the functional response of shrimps to six densities of juvenile plaice in a sand habitat with alternative prey present. The proportional mortality of juvenile plaice (12 - 16 min total length (TL)) was density-dependent and was best described by a type III (sigmoid) functional response of the predatory shrimps. The results suggested that the combined predation pressure from shrimps and crabs was lower among algae than on sand, but settling plaice and predatory shrimps chose the sand habitat. Plaice densities in the sigmoid part of the obtained functional response curve represented normal to high field densities of plaice on the Swedish west coast, suggesting that shrimp predation could have a stabilising effect on plaice recruitment. The formation of macroalgae mats could therefore lead to a concentration of plaice juveniles in the remaining sand habitat and increased mortality through density-dependent predation by shrimps. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


alternative prey; Carcinus maenas; Crangon crangon; Enteromorpha spp.; filamentous algae; fish; functional response; metamorphosis; prey vulnerability; settlement

Published in

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
2002, Volume: 269, number: 2, pages: 129-145

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