A recent study has shown that bottom-dwelling goosefish, also known as monkfish, prey on dovekies, a small Arctic seabird and the smallest member of the puffin family. To understand how this deep-water fish finds a shallow-feeding bird in offshore waters, researchers looked at when, where, and how these animals were most likely to be in the same place at the same time.
Remains of fourteen dovekie were recovered from the stomachs of 14 goosefish caught during the winters between 2007 and 2010. The goosefish were captured in gillnets deployed at depths between 275 and 495 feet in waters 65 to 95 miles south of Chatham, Mass. The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association collected the specimens and provided them for the research study.
Researchers from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) in Woods Hole, Mass. and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., wanted to know how the birds could be captured so far from shore by a fish that lives on the ocean bottom in deep water. Their findings, recently published online in the Northeastern Naturalist, suggest that it is all a matter of timing.
Goosefish (Lophius americanus) are highly opportunistic predators. Distributed from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, N.C., the fish are typically partially buried on soft bottom habitats and attract a variety of prey by using a modified dorsal fin ray that resembles a fishing pole and lure.
Dovekies, a small black and white puffin species, breed along the Arctic coast and head south in the winter, typically as far as New England. The dovekie (Alle alle), also known as little auk, is the smallest of the auks. It lives in the open ocean and can dive to depths o more than 100 feet to prey on small fish, crustaceans, and zooplankton.
Study co-author Anne Richards of the NEFSC says tagging studies that she and colleagues have conducted reveal that goosefish swim considerable ve
|Contact: Shelley Dawicki|
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center