Large teleost (bony) fish are a dominant group of predators in the oceans and constitute a major source of food and livelihood for humans. These species differ markedly in morphology and feeding habits across oceanic regions; large pelagic species such as tunas and billfish typically occur in the tropics, whereas demersal species of gadoids and flatfish dominate boreal and temperate regions. Despite their importance for fisheries and the structuring of marine ecosystems, the underlying factors determining the global distribution and productivity of these two groups of teleost predators are poorly known. Here, we show how latitudinal differences in predatory fish can essentially be explained by the inflow of energy at the base of the pelagic and benthic food chain. A low productive benthic energy pathway favours large pelagic species, whereas equal productivities support large demersal generalists that outcompete the pelagic specialists. Our findings demonstrate the vulnerability of large teleost predators to ecosystem-wide changes in energy flows and hence provide key insight to predict the responses of these important marine resources under global change.
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We thank N. S. Jacobsen for help with the RAM Legacy Stock Assessment Database, C. A. Stock for advice on the energy fluxes, U. R. Sumaila for making the global fish prices available and H. van Someren Gréve for Fig. 1,3 and 4 fish illustrations. P.D.v.D., M.L. and K.H.A. conducted the work within the Centre for Ocean Life—a Villum Kann Rasmussen Center of Excellence supported by the Villum Foundation. P.D.v.D. received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Research Executive Agency grant agreement number 609405 (COFUNDPostdocDTU). M.L. is supported by a VILLUM Young Investigator grant (13159). R.A.W. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (Discovery Project DP140101377).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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van Denderen, P.D., Lindegren, M., MacKenzie, B.R. et al. Global patterns in marine predatory fish. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 65–70 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0388-z
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