Habitat utilization and feeding ecology of small round goby in a shallow brackish lagoon
We examined small-scale distribution and feeding ecology of a non-native fish species, round goby (Neogobius melanostomus (Pallas, 1814)), in different habitats of a coastal lagoon situated in the south-western Baltic Sea. First observations of round goby in this lagoon were reported in 2011, 3 years before the current study was conducted, and information on this species’ basic ecology in different habitats is limited. We found that mainly juvenile round gobies are non-randomly distributed between habitats and that abundances potentially correlate positively with vegetation density and thus structural complexity of the environment. Abundances were highest in shallower, more densely vegetated habitats indicating that these areas might act as a refuge for small round gobies by possibly offering decreased predation risk and better feeding resources. Round goby diet composition was distinct for several length classes suggesting an ontogenetic diet shift concerning crustacean prey taxa between small (≤ 50 mm total length, feeding mainly on zooplankton) and medium individuals (51–100 mm, feeding mainly on benthic crustaceans) and another diet shift of increasing molluscivory with increasing body size across all length classes. Differences in round goby diet between habitats within the smallest length class might potentially be related to prey availability in the environment, which would point to an opportunistic feeding strategy. Here, we offer new insights into the basic ecology of round goby in littoral habitats, providing a better understanding of the ecological role of this invasive species in its non-native range, which might help to assess potential consequences for native fauna and ecosystems.