Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Elliott Hazen, Duke University

Class Year: 

Project Title: 

Ontogenetic, Spatial and Temporal Variability in the Diet of the Atlantic Croaker, Micropogonias undulatus


The Atlantic Croaker, Micropogonius undulatus, is increasing in abundance in the Chesapeake Bay thus increasing its importance in the ecosystem. On three TIES (Trophic Interactions in Estuarine Systems) cruises per year from 1995 to 1999, stomach contents of Atlantic croaker were examined to obtain percentage and frequency of occurrence of prey. Over the summer of 1999, 323 croaker were examined and contents were categorized into polychaetes, fish, crustaceans and bivalves. Out of the factors examined during this study, there were three significant factors that play a role in croaker diet. The primary was ontogenetic size classes, with two other factors: one seasonal and one regional difference. There was also a noticeable difference in three fish caught by hook and line off of the pier at CBL. Such dietary changes bode well for the future of croaker, demonstrating high adaptability and an ability to manage environmental instability.