Prey selection by North Sea herring (Clupea harengus) with special reference to fish eggs

F.H.I.D. Segers, M. Dickey-Collas, A.D. Rijnsdorp

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40 Citations (Scopus)


The herring stock in the North Sea in recent years has recovered to a relatively high biomass, and here we investigate prey selection of individual North Sea herring when population numbers are high. The diet composition, and specifically pelagic fish eggs, was investigated in February 2004. Samples of herring from the International Bottom Trawl Survey were used for stomach analysis, and ichthyoplankton samples from the southern North Sea were used to investigate selection. Crustaceans were the main diet component. The average diameter of the fish eggs recovered from the stomachs was significantly larger than that of the eggs collected in the field. In addition, the frequency at which the latest developmental stages occurred in the herring stomachs was significantly different from the frequency at which these stages were found in the field. This shows selective foraging. There was a relationship between the amount of food and the number of eggs in a herring stomach: the fullest stomachs tended to contain fewer fish eggs. This suggests that herring forage on eggs when other prey are not available. Hence, it is likely that the dynamics of multiple trophic levels influence the ecological impact of a large herring stock on the North Sea ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • cod gadus-morhua
  • plaice pleuronectes-platessa
  • baltic sea
  • irish sea
  • sprattus-sprattus
  • predation
  • size
  • food
  • climate
  • zooplankton

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