Goosefish leave the bottom to use the currents during migration periods or to spawn at the surface. If prey items are encountered during their vertical movements, the goosefish take advantage. Hence, timing may be the key factor in bringing dovekies and goosefish together in the same place.
"Given the common name 'goosefish', it is not surprising to find birds in goosefish stomachs, but it is surprising to find that this predation occurs over deep water, "Richards said. "Goosefish do not actively seek out the dovekies, but when such tasty morsels are available in the water column, the fish are going to consume them."
Another source of data used in the study is the NOAA NEFSC food-habits database, which contains decades of predation information collected from the stomachs of fish that are caught during regular research vessel surveys. While not a particularly good measure of how often or how many birds are eaten by fish, these data confirm that not only goosefish, but also spiny dogfish, Atlantic herring, pollock, Atlantic cod, red hake, and fourspot flounder will eat birds.
Lead author Matthew Perry, a research wildlife biologist at the USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center, says he became interested in goosefish predation when he learned from a sea scalloper on Nantucket that Chatham gillnetters were finding birds inside goosefish stomachs.
"I was studying long-tailed ducks and thought, to avoid being eaten, these birds fly 30 to 50 miles to Nantucket Sound each night and return to the ocean in the morning," said Perry, who studies several species of seaducks. "People ask why don't dovekies fly to Nantucket Sound at night like the long-tailed ducks to avoid goosefish? My explanation is that dovekies have small wings and can't make the
|Contact: Shelley Dawicki|
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center