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Fish mitigate trophic depletion in marine cave ecosystems

Abstract : Dark marine habitats are often characterized by a food-limited condition. Peculiar dark habitats include marine caves, characterized by the absence of light and limited water flow, which lead to reduced fluxes of organic matter for cave-dwelling organisms. We investigated whether the most abundant and common cave-dwelling fish Apogon imberbis has the potential to play the role of trophic vector in Mediterranean marine caves. We first analysed stomach contents to check whether repletion changes according to a nycthemeral cycle. We then identified the prey items, to see whether they belong to species associated with cave habitats or not. Finally, we assessed whether A. imberbis moves outside marine caves at night to feed, by collecting visual census data on A. imberbis density both inside and outside caves, by day and by night. The stomach repletion of individuals sampled early in the morning was significantly higher than later in the day. Most prey were typical of habitats other than caves. A. imberbis was on average more abundant within caves during the day and outside during the night. Our study supports the hypothesis regarding the crucial trophic role of A. imberbis in connecting Mediterranean marine caves with external habitats.
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Simona Bussotti, Antonio Di Franco, Carlo Nike Bianchi, Pierre Chevaldonné, Lea Egea, et al.. Fish mitigate trophic depletion in marine cave ecosystems. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, 8, pp.1-11/9193. ⟨10.1038/s41598-018-27491-1⟩. ⟨hal-01828830⟩

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