Alternate Title

Feeding Habits of Sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, in Offshore Reef Habitats of the Southeastern Continental Shelf


The feeding habits of sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, were studied by examining contents of digestive tracts from fish collected on offshore live bottom reefs in the South Atlantic Bight. Sessile invertebrates were the most important prey for sheeps· head. Smaller sheepshead (<350 mm standard length) had a diet dominated by bryozoans. Larger sheepshead also fed heavily on bryozoans, but included more bivalves, echinoderms and ascidians in the diet. Barnacles and decapods were consumed in lesser amounts by both size classes. Foraminiferans, cnidarians, polychaetes, gastropods and small arthropods were also eaten. The sessile species utilized as prey by sheepshead are common colonial organisms found on offshore reefs. Motile epifaunal species consumed by sheepshead were common species associated with hard substrates or sessile species. Predation by sheepshead may be important in regulating the structure of epifaunal communities in reef habitats.