Importance of the Río de la Plata estuarine front (southwestern Atlantic Ocean) in the feeding ecology of Argentine anchovy, Engraulis anchoita (Clupeiformes, Clupeidae)
The feeding of Engraulis anchoita was studied in the coastal reproductive habitat of the northern population during the spawning period. Stomach contents of anchovy adults and plankton samples taken during a research cruise were examined. The highest stomach fullness values were found in the Rio de la Plata estuary, particularly at stations close to the surface salinity front. Copepods, particularly those < 1 mm total length, represented by Paracalanus spp. and Oithona spp., were the most abundant prey. The dominance of small copepods in the Argentine anchovy diet is noted for the first time. Ecological implications of this fact are discussed. Other abundant preys were appendicularians, cladocerans, and fish eggs. The species composition of the zooplankton samples coincided roughly with that found in the stomach contents. However, selective feeding was observed on preys > 1 mm total length. This might be explained by a low gill rakers efficiency of adult anchovies to retain small prey. In the Rio de la Plata front, both the reported large biomasses of zooplankton and the observed intense anchovy feeding revealed the ecological significance of this front, especially when compared with the contiguous "poor in food" coastal areas.