Gizzard shad put a freeze on winter mortality of age-0 yellow perch but not white perch.

Department of Natural Resources, Cornell Biological Field Station, Cornell University, Bridgeport, New York 13030, USA.
Ecological Applications (Impact Factor: 3.82). 09/2006; 16(4):1487-501. DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[1487:GSPAFO]2.0.CO;2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Four decades of observations on the limnology and fishes of Oneida Lake, New York, USA, provided an opportunity to investigate causes of mortality during winter, a period of resource scarcity for most juvenile fishes, in age-0 yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and age-0 white perch (Morone americana). This time series contains several environmental (e.g., winter severity) and biological (e.g., predator abundance) signals that can be used to disentangle multiple effects on overwinter mortality of these fishes. A multiple regression analysis indicated that age-0 yellow perch winter mortality was inversely related to fish length in autumn and to the abundance of alternative prey (gizzard shad [Dorosoma cepedianum] and white perch). However, no length-selective predation of yellow perch by one of the main predators, adult walleye (Sander vitreus), was detected. In contrast, white perch mortality was directly associated with total predator biomass and abundance of white perch in autumn, and inversely related to yellow perch abundance as a potential buffer species, but not to the abundance of gizzard shad. Winter severity was not a significant predictor of mortality for either perch species. Predicted winter starvation mortality, from a model described in the literature, was much lower than observed mortality for yellow perch. Similar models for white perch were correlated with observed mortality. These results collectively suggest that predation is the main mechanism shaping winter mortality of yellow perch, while both predation and starvation may be important for white perch. This analysis also revealed that gizzard shad buffer winter mortality of yellow perch. Although winter duration determines the northern limit of fish distributions, in mid-latitude Oneida Lake and for these species, predator-prey interactions seem to exert a greater influence on winter mortality than starvation.

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