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The objective of this study was to describe the diet of young-of-the-year and adult alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) in nearshore waters coincident with the colonization of Lake Ontario by Dreissena. Laboratory experiments and field observations indicated that alewife and rainbow smelt consumed dreissenid veligers and that the veligers remained intact and identifiable in the digestive tract for several hours. Dreissenid larvae were found in field-caught alewife and rainbow smelt in August 1992, even though veliger densities were low (<0.1/L). Zooplankton dominated the diet of all fish and veliger larvae were <0.1% of the biomass of prey eaten by these fish. Density of veligers and the distribution of settled dreissenids declined from west to east along the south shore of Lake Ontario. Based on veliger consumption rates we measured and the abundance of veligers and planktivores, we conclude that planktivory by alewife and smelt in the nearshore waters of Lake Ontario did not substantially reduce the number of veligers during 1991-1993. However, our results indicate that if the density of veligers in Lake Ontario decreases, and if planktivores remain abundant, planktivory on veliger populations could be significant.
Additional Publication Details
Planktivory by alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) on microcrustacean zooplankton and dreissenid (Bivalvia: Dreissenidae) veligers in southern Lake Ontario
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences