Regional Variation in Feeding Patterns of Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • Feeding patterns of sheepshead, Archosargus probatocephalus, in the northwest Gulf of Mexico were examined from samples collected at two locations in Texas, USA; Galveston and Port Aransas. A total of 53 sheepshead stomachs (Galveston, n = 35; Port Aransas, n = 18) had their contents analyzed along with tissue samples from the muscle and liver for a stable isotope analysis (13C, 15N, and 34S) because they provide a contrast between short-term (liver) and long-term (muscle) measurements. Multiple species of amphipods made up the majority of the prey items in sheepshead from Galveston (%IRI = 61.79), whereas barnacles were the primary diet item for sheepshead collected in Port Aransas (%IRI = 39.53). We observed diet shifts prior to and during the spawning season. MANOVA revealed significant differences in 13C, 15N, and 34S stable isotope values from the muscle and liver tissue of sheepshead based on the location. In both muscle and liver samples, 13C values were lower in Galveston than Port Aransas, but 15N and 34S values were higher in Galveston than Port Aransas. Niche size and overlap also differed between sheepshead from both locations and tissue types. Sheepshead collected in Galveston had a larger niche size in the muscle and liver samples ((mean SD) 479.3 131.2, muscle; 433.3 120.3, liver) than Port Aransas (178.8 54.3, muscle; 270.0 80.9, liver). The trophic niche of sheepshead from Galveston overlapped Port Aransas in muscle samples by 16.47% and 18.56% in liver samples. The trophic niche overlap of sheepshead from Port Aransas measured in muscle samples overlapped with sheepshead from Galveston by 18.49% and by 39.17% in liver samples. This study shows that there are subtle but significant differences between the diets of sheepshead along the Texas coast, with the majority of the differences potentially attributable to differences in the prey field along the natural salinity gradient of the Texas coast. This work provides an insight into the widely generalist grazing behavior of sheepshead, which potentially changes during the springtime spawning season.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Gutierrez, E. M., Plumlee, J. D., Bolser, D. G., Erisman, B. E., & Wells, R.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • 2023