Data Set (knb-lter-sbc.56.3)

SBC LTER: Reef: Feeding relationships for kelp forest species

  Summary and Data Links People and Organizations Temporal, Geographic and Taxonomic Coverage Methods and Protocols  

These methods, instrumentation and/or protocols apply to all data in this dataset:

Protocols and/or Procedures

Kelp Forest Food Web Assembly

In order to assemble a food web for all species sampled in the SBC LTERs summer kelp forest community surveys, we conducted a literature review on diets and consumptive habits of target species. After obtaining information from several general reviews of the natural history of kelp forest fish and invertebrates (Limbaugh, 1955; Quast, 1968; Foster & Schiel, 12 1985; Hobson & Chess, 1986, 2001) we performed a search for each species using ISI Web of Science, Google Scholar, Avano, and Aquatic Commons. Each species name was searched with the additional keywords of 'diet', 'predator', 'prey', 'gut content', and 'feeding' (asterisks used to expand search terms). In addition, we searched these five keywords in theses, grey literature, and student report databases at the Cadet Hand Library at the Bodega Marine Laboratory, the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory Library, the Miller Library at the Hopkins Marine Station, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Library. Only feeding observations from studies that showed direct consumption (e.g., either a feeding observation in the field, gut contents, or lab preference study) or provided strong evidence of a direct feeding relationship between two taxa were used. Our final food web was revised and verified after consultation with several experts in the field of kelp forest community ecology.

Studies had to meet different criteria depending on their origin in order to be used. Information on feeding habits was obtained from papers in the peer reviewed literature, unpublished dissertations, government reports, observations from undergraduate field classes, or from consultation with experts. This information could be from field observations, gut contents analyses, laboratory experiments (i.e., it was assumed that researchers were creating treatments from a priori knowledge of the natural history of organisms), or summaries of natural history information. Only field and laboratory observations with quantitative data were used from PhD dissertations, Masters theses, and agency reports. Only direct field observations or gut contents information was used from undergraduate theses and student reports. All references are reported in the feeding list. When completed, we solicited expert opinions from the scientists (below)



The quality of data varied greatly by taxon and author. In many cases, diet information was taxonomically vague (e.g., "Gastropods"). We therefore categorized the information by the level of taxonomic resolution provided. If information was provided at the genus or family level, all prey items in that genus or family are listed. Additionally, SBC LTER associates individual species with a 'group' categorization that blends Class and Phyla in many cases (e.g., Gastropods versus Bryozoans). This matched how data were often reported in the literature, and as such, Group has therefore been included as the coarsest level of categorization. The level of taxonomic specificity for each prey item is listed in a separate data column. Analyses were carried out using each level of taxonomic uncertainty (e.g. both with a stringent 'species only' analysis as well as a 'group and below' analysis). As results did not qualitatively differ, we here only report results of the species only analysis. We report the higher-level information in order to provide a broader picture of kelp-forest food webs, and we hope that it will be refined by future efforts.

Note that some consumer and prey species are not listed because they are not sampled by SBC LTER. See the supplemental list of all species sampled in SBC LTER monitoring.

In addition, we applied the following criteria to clarify feeding links where ambiguous:

1) If a species was a filter feeder or alga, no prey were listed.

2) Only predators and prey for which the SBC LTER collects data for are listed. For example, while nudibranchs are consumed by several species listed here, the SBC LTER collects no information on nudibranchs, and hence they are not listed as prey. Similarly, only one type of amphipod - Amphipod Tube Mat - is listed, and many species consumed amphipods. It is therefore found in the diets of a wide variety of species.

3) SBC LTER samples several categories of fish that are not identified to the species level. They were dealt with as follows:

Embiotocid spp. and Sebastes spp.- these typically referred to juvenile Embiotocids or Rockfish respectively. As their diets are obviously not the same as adults, they are only listed as eating amphipods.

Bothid spp. - This category was for unidentified flatfishes. We therefore used the diets of several flounder species native to the area.

Gibbonsia spp. and Cottid spp. - These two fish groupings had species represented in the data with detailed diets. We therefore combined diets of these other represented species (which were typically quite similar) to create a diet for these taxonomically broader groups. This was a conservative approach, as individuals sampled within these two groups could have been one of the already listed species, but eluded identification due to age or poor visibility.

4) In cases where information on prey was general, but a size range of prey was provided, (Quast 1968), all prey of that taxon whose maximum size was less than the maximum size given were listed as prey at the group level. Similarly, many species consumed smaller individuals of a given prey species than are commonly observed in the survey. We therefore assumed that if a large individual of a prey species was observed in the survey, small individuals likely existed at the site as well. See additional notes in table S1.

5) For two species no diet information was found - the sarcastic fringehead Neoclinus blanchardi and the threaded abalone Haliotis kamtschatkana. Neoclinus was excluded from the analysis as a predator, as it did not have sufficiently similar or congeneric species in the data set. However, for Haliotis kamtschatkana, we have listed all kelp species as potential prey. Because all other species of abalone consumed kelp, this appeared to be a reasonable assumption. These species were also rare within the dataset.

6) There is a surprising lack of detail on the diets of sea urchins in the literature. This is largely due to their ability to rapidly grind and macerate their prey. However, they are well known to completely denude vast areas of algae. The work of Watanabe and Harrold was particularly helpful here, as it provides an example of species that are eliminated after urchins move in as a front. As such, we have generally assumed urchins will eat any algae. In our own work, we have observed purple urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus removing all types of ascidians, sponges, and bryozoans (Byrnes and Stachowicz 2009). There was also very little information on the diet of the white sea urchin Lytechinus anamesus other than observations of it eating other urchins (Coyer et al. 1987). We have therefore assumed that their diet is similar to S. purpuratus.


Expert scientists:

Paul Dayton - Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, kelp forest community ecologist

Jim Watanabe - Lecturer, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford, kelp forest invertebrate community ecologist

Jack Engle - Research Biologist, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, kelp forest community ecologist

Shane Anderson - Marine Collector, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara

Milton Love - Research Biologist, Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, ichthyologist

Larry Allen - Professor of Biology, California State University Northridge, fish ecologist

Mark Steele - Assistant Professor of Biology, California State University Northridge, fish ecologist

Based on these opinions, several feeding links were added, deleted, or refined to a lower taxonomic level, and are marked as such in Supplementary Table 1.


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