To describe the trophic structure of fishes on the southeast United States estuarine and shelf systems, published gut content data for 60 predator species were synthesized. Cluster analysis and correspondence analysis were used to define fish trophic guilds. On the shelf, three trophic guilds were defined: piscivores, carnivores (majority of diet consisting of fish and crustaceans), and browsers of attached invertebrate prey. In the estuary, six trophic guilds were defined: planktivores, carnivores that consumed mostly fish and crustaceans, a transitional Sciaenops ocellatus (Linneaus, 1766) group between the planktivorous larvae and carnivorous juveniles of the species, benthic invertebrate consumers from seagrass habitats, cnidarian and benthic invertebrate consumers, and benthic invertebrate consumers from non-seagrass habitats. In summary, the diets of most fish species were broad and not easily classified, with guild assignment largely defined by the inclusion of fish in the diet, location of prey (benthic vs pelagic), and mobility of prey (sessile vs mobile). Using trophic gradients instead of discrete guilds in the definition of trophic structure and improving diet data from which these gradients are derived will provide a better foundation for ecosystem-based approaches to management.
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