Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria 41(2): 109-116, doi: 10.3750/AIP2011.41.2.06
Food and feeding habits of the red mullet, Mullus barbatus (Actinopterygii: Perciformes: Mullidae), off the northern Tunisian coast (central Mediterranean)
expand article infoM. Chérif, M.M. Ben Amor, S. Selmi, H. Gharbi, H. Missaoui, C. Capapé
Open Access
Background. The red mullet, Mullus barbatus L., is abundantly captured and targeted throughout the year in Tunisian waters but not all aspects of its biology have been studied well. One of them—the feeding behaviour of this fish may be important for stock assessment, ecosystem modelling, and understanding mechanism and processes which structure and influence the fish assemblages. The aim of this paper is to describe the diet of specimens from the northern coast of Tunisia, to analyse seasonal variations in its composition and to delineate feeding intensity in relation to sex and size. Materials and methods. Red mullet were sampled from different landing sites along the northern Tunisian coast and the Gulf of Tunis. Random samples were taken from both commercial and demersal trawlers from January to December 2005. A total of 472 specimens were examined following the commonly accepted procedures. The following parameters were analysed: vacuity index, percentage frequency of occurrence, percentage numerical abundance, percentage gravimetric composition, and index of relative importance. The trophic level for any consumer species was calculated, for total sample, but also in related to size, sex, and season. Results. Mullus barbatus mainly fed on crustaceans and polychaetes. According to the classification of fishes in functional groups based on their TROPH red mullet is an omnivorous feeder, animal species being preferential preys.  Basing on data assembled by Stergiou and Karpouzi for the Mediterranean ichthyofauna, the estimated trophic levels for the red mullet ranged between 2.79 and 3.57 units. Such within-species differences in trophic levels might reflect the combined effect of the following factors: area, year, length structure, and differential fishing pressure between years and/or areas, because fishing removes the largest individuals of a species, which generally have higher trophic levels. Conclusion. The red mullet is not only omnivorous, but also opportunistic feeder with trophic level related to body size, season, geographic area and fishing pressure.
Mullus barbatus, food composition, trophic level, Tunisia, central Mediterranean