The razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus), an endangered big-river fish of the Colorado River basin, has demonstrated no sustainable recruitment in 4 decades, despite presence of spawning adults and larvae. Lack of adequate recruitment has been attributed to several factors, including predation by nonnative fishes. Substantial funding and effort has been expended on mechanically removing nonnative game fishes, typically targeting large predators. As a result, abundance of larger predators has declined, but the abundance of small nonnative fishes has increased in some areas. We conducted laboratory experiments to determine if small nonnative fishes would consume larval razorback suckers. We tested adults of three small species (threadfin shad, Dorosoma petenense; red shiner, Cyprinella lutrensis; fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas) and juveniles of six larger species (common carp, Cyprinus carpio; yellow bullhead, Ameiurus natalis; channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus; rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss; green sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus; bluegill, L. macrochirus). These nonnative fishes span a broad ecological range and are abundant within the historical range of the razorback sucker. All nine species fed on larval razorback suckers (total length, 9-16 mm). Our results suggest that predation by small nonnative fishes could be responsible for limiting recovery of this endangered species.
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Small nonnative fishes as predators of larval razorback suckers