This study compares simple fish communities of ten oligotrophic lakes in south-central Ontario. Species densities and population size structure vary significantly among these lake communities depending on fish species present beyond the littoral zone. Lake whitefish are fewer and larger in the presence of lake herring than in their absence. Diet analysis indicates that lake whitefish shift from feeding on both plankton and benthic prey when lake herring are absent to a primarily benthic feeding niche in the presence of lake herring. When benthic round whitefish are present, lake whitefish size and density decline and they move lower in the lake compared to round whitefish. Burbot are also fewer and larger in lakes with lake herring than in lakes without herring. Burbot, in turn, appear to influence the population structure of benthic coregonine species. Lower densities of benthic lake whitefish and round whitefish are found in lakes containing large benthic burbot than in lakes with either small burbot or where burbot are absent. Predation on the pelagic larvae of burbot and lake whitefish by planktivorous lake herring alters the size and age structure of these populations. As life history theory predicts, those species with poor larval survival appear to adopt a bet-hedging life history strategy of long-lived individuals as a reproductive reserve.
Additional publication details
Lake whitefish and lake herring population structure and niche in ten south-central Ontario lakes