No Stomach, No Problem: an Integrated Morpho-Molecular Approach to Assessing the Diets of the Cunner Wrasse, Tautogolabrus adspersus, among Coastal, Nearshore Regions of Atlantic Canada.
High biodiversity in coastal marine ecosystems allows for the formation of complex and inconspicuous trophic arrangements between a consumer and its prey community. For small omnivorous wrasses characterized by high digestion rates, these arrangements are often poorly reflected in their observable diet. By integrating morphological and molecular COI sequence assignments from 110 whole diets collected among four latitudinally-defined regions, my aim was to provide a comprehensive assessment of prey composition and diversity in the diets of the cunner, T. adspersus, and investigate how these diets vary throughout their distribution in coastal Atlantic Canada. Common prey taxa identified include the invasive sea vase tunicate, mussels, acorn barnacles, and several malacostracan species. Distinct patterns in prey composition among four sampled regions were found to be significant through morphological assessment, while beta diversity among prey sequences demonstrated vast similarities in assigned taxa among regions and sites from Nova Scotia to South Newfoundland.