Food web changes reflected in age‐0 piscivore diets and growth
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Food web changes reflected in age‐0 piscivore diets and growth

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  • Journal Title:
    Ecology of Freshwater Fish
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    Lake Erie walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) recruitment fluctuates annually and depends partially on their diet and growth during their first year of life. In recent decades, age‐0 walleye diet and growth may be responding to food web changes in western Lake Erie. To determine how age‐0 walleye have responded to changes in prey species and abundance, we compared diet between 2019, 2014 and 1994–1999. Larval walleye ate predominantly cyclopoids in 2019, compared to 1994–1999 when calanoids were the most consumed copepod. Juvenile walleye ate predominantly large cladocerans and benthic invertebrates in 2019, compared to 2014 and 1994 when fish was the most consumed prey. Additionally, in 2019 and 2014, age‐0 walleye ate two of the current aquatic invasive species (AIS), Bythotrephes longimanus and Neogobius melanostomus, and the historical AIS, Osmerus mordax. Age‐0 walleye were smaller in 2019 than in 2014 and switched to consuming more AIS and less fish suggesting that more energetically favourable prey were not available. While age‐0 walleye showed adaptation to new prey and conditions, they had a lower quality diet because they consumed less fish, but also because the invasive fish they now consume have a lower energy density than native species. However, lower quality diet and size may not result in reduced survival, if adequate alternative prey is available. Continued monitoring of age‐0 walleye diet could provide confirmation that lower diet quality during the first year decreased walleye growth and aid to identify any effects changes in age‐0 diets has on recruitment to the adult population.
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    Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 32(4), 765-782
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    CC0 Public Domain
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