The Effect of the Invasive Macroinvertebrate, Bythotrephes Longimanus, on the Growth of Cisco (Coregonus Artedii) in Ontario Shield Lakes
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Bythotrephes longimanus is an invasive, macroinvertebrate from Eurasia that was introduced into the Great Lakes region in the mid 1980s. Bythotrephes introductions into lake ecosystems have resulted in substantial changes in zooplankton communities, including declines in species richness, abundance, biomass and production. Changes in zooplankton communities may alter the quantity and quality of prey to other predators such as cisco (Coregonus artedii), a pelagic forage fish. Here, I conduct a current day comparison of cisco populations to determine if prey consumption by cisco differs in the presence of Bythotrephes, and whether changes in diet result in energetic consequences (changes in growth and condition) for cisco. Effects of Bythotrephes on native zooplankton communities have resulted in substantial changes in the variety and proportion biomass of zooplankton and macroinvertebrate prey types in cisco stomachs, which have in turn modified growth of cisco. Cisco taken from invaded lakes achieve greater total lengths but changes in condition were not detected. This effect may be driven by improved growth in the second and subsequent growing seasons, suggesting that growth consequences for young fish (that do not feed on Bythotrephes) are different than for older individuals. Length-at-structure age data indicate that by the end of the first growing season (age 1) cisco achieve comparable total body lengths in invaded and reference lakes, suggesting that food consumption by young cisco remains unchanged by Bythotrephes. Alternatively, young cisco forage may be reduced in the presence of Bythotrephes, resulting in decreased survival and similar growth among individuals that survive to age 1. In contrast, despite changes in the zooplankton community; growth of older fish (≥ age 2) was enhanced in lakes that have Bythotrephes. Improved growth among older cisco (≥ age 2) in invaded lakes may be related to the presence of a newly attainable, high energy prey source (Bythotrephes). Alternatively, enhanced growth may be explained by lower competition due to reduced recruitment of young cisco (≤ age 1) in invaded lakes. Increased knowledge regarding the effects of Bythotrephes on growth of cisco is important in furthering our understanding of its impact on lake ecosystems.