Pothoven S.A.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration |
Madenjian C.P.,United States Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center Ann Arbor |
Hook T.O.,Purdue University
Ecology of Freshwater Fish | Year: 2016
Recovering populations of piscivores can challenge understanding of ecosystem function due to impacts on prey and to potentially altered food webs supporting their production. Stocks of walleye (Percidae, Sander vitreus), an apex predator in the Laurentian Great Lakes, crashed in the mid-1900s. Management efforts led to recovery by 2009, but recovery coincided with environmental and fish community changes that also had implications for the feeding ecology of walleye. To evaluate potential changes in feeding ecology for this apex predator, we assessed diets in the main basin of Lake Huron and in Saginaw Bay, a large embayment of Lake Huron, during 2009-2011. Walleye switched their diets differently in the main basin and Saginaw Bay, with non-native round goby (Gobiidae, Neogobius melanostomus) and rainbow smelt (Osmeridae, Osmerus mordax) more prevalent in diets in the main basin, and invertebrates, yellow perch (Percidae, Perca flavescens) and gizzard shad (Clupeidae, Dorosoma cepedianum) more prevalent in diets in the bay. Feeding strategy plots indicated that there was a high degree of individual specialisation by walleye in the bay and the main basin. Bioenergetic simulations indicated that walleye in Saginaw Bay need to consume 10%-18% more food than a walleye that spends part or all of the year in the main basin, respectively, in order to achieve the same growth rate. The differences in diets between the bay and main basin highlight the flexibility of this apex predator in the face of environmental changes, but changes in diet can alter energy pathways supporting piscivore production. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons A/S.