Alternate Title

Food of Cobia, Rachycentron canadum, from the Northcentral Gulf of Mexico

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The stomach contents of 403 cobia, Rachycentron canadum, caught in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico recreational fishery from April through October of 1987-1990 were examined. Cobia ranged from 373-1,530 mm in fork length. Of the 403 stomachs, 287 (71.2%) contained at least one identifiable prey taxon. Crustaceans, consisting primarily of portunid crabs, were the predominant food. Crustaceans occurred in 79.1% of the stomachs and comprised 77.6% of the total number of identifiable prey. The second most important prey category was fish which was dominated by hardhead catfish, Arius felis, and eels. Fish occurred in 58.5% of the stomachs but only accounted for 20.3% of the total number of prey. The importance of fish as prey increased with increasing size (length) of cobia, with the largest size class of cobia (1,150-1,530 mm FL) showing the highest percent frequency occurrence of fish prey (84.4%). There were no significant differences between the diets of male and female cobia. Species composition of the diet indicated that cobia examined in this study were generalist carnivores in their feeding habits and fed primarily on benthic/epibenthic crustaceans and fishes. However, the occurrence of pelagic prey provided evidence of diversity in the foraging behavior of cobia. Feeding in cobia indicated their dependence upon prey availability rather than upon a few specific food organisms.

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