Ecological effects of Hemimysis anomala on the nearshore fish community of Lake Ontario
Yuille, Michael James
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Species invasions are regarded as one of the most serious threats to biodiversity and native ecosystems and our ability to predict and quantify the impacts of invasive species has been an arduous task. Since the 1840s, the Laurentian Great Lakes have experienced an exponential increase in the number of identified invasive species. The most recent, Hemimysis anomala, is a littoral freshwater mysid native to the Ponto-Caspian region of Eastern Europe. They have been identified in all of the Great Lakes (except Lake Superior), the St. Lawrence River downstream to Québec City, and inland lakes in New York State and have the potential to destabilize energy flow in aquatic food webs. Using stable isotopes of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N), I evaluated nearshore food web structure at four sites along Lake Ontario’s north shore spanning a gradient of Hemimysis density to determine: 1) if dominant nearshore food web pathways change seasonally, and 2) whether fish exhibit a dietary shift towards consumption of Hemimysis. Also, the effects of Hemimysis consumption on the growth of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) were quantified using bioenergetics modeling and four predictive feeding scenarios simulating Hemimysis incorporation into yellow perch diets. My results suggest Hemimysis are being incorporated into diets of round gobies, alewife and small yellow perch, which has resulted in a trophic lengthening of the food web. As Hemimysis populations continue to establish and stabilize, fish may incorporate this species into their diets at a higher rate. Based on the bioenergetic modeling, the incorporation of Hemimysis into the diets of yellow perch will have a negative impact on their growth. These negative impacts on fish growth will likely be exacerbated when the limited seasonal availability of Hemimysis, patchy distribution and predator avoidance behaviours, are considered. These results have implications surrounding the sustainability of the Great Lakes fishery as Hemimysis will likely increase competition with young fish for food and fish consumption of this new invasive may lead to reduced fish growth.