We examined the hypothesis that competition for food between rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) and larval lake herring (Coregonus artedi) was a cause for the declines of lake herring stocks in Lake Superior. We studied the diet of larval lake herring and of larval, juvenile, and adult rainbow smelt during 1974 in Black Bay, Ontario, where both species were abundant, and in the Apostle Islands Region, Wisconsin, where rainbow smelt was abundant but lake herring was scarce. No evidence of competition for food was found between larval lake herring and rainbow smelt. Spawning and hatching times of the two species were separate enough that most larvae of the two species did not occupy the study areas simultaneously. Juvenile and adult rainbow smelt were found with lake herring larvae, but their diets differed. Therefore, we concluded that rainbow smelt did not compete with lake herring larvae for food and that competition for food between rainbow smelt and lake herring larvae was not the factor that caused lake herring population declines in Lake Superior.
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Rainbow smelt - larval lake herring interactions: competitors or casual acquaintances?