The exotic zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, is established in all of the Laurentian Great Lakes and may affect benthivorous fishes by increasing the complexity of benthic substrates and changing energy flow patterns within the food web. Native yellow perch, Perca flavescens, and the nonindigenous Eurasian ruffe, Gymnocephalus cernuus, are benthivores that may compete for limited food resources. As ruffe spread to areas with more dense zebra mussel populations, the zone of interaction among zebra mussels, yellow perch, and ruffe will increase and intensify. In the laboratory, the effect of zebra mussel shells on the ability of these fishes to forage on amphipods (Gammarus pseudolimnaeus) and chironomids (Chironomus plumosus) was examined in light and darkness. In 12 h, ruffe consumed more amphipods than did similar-sized yellow perch, particularly in darkness on bare cobble, and in light within zebra mussels. Amphipods decreased activity more in the presence of ruffe than yellow perch. More amphipods were found in zebra mussel shells than in bare cobble, whether or not fish were present. In darkness, when ruffe consumed more amphipods on bare cobble, amphipods became more associated with zebra mussel shells. Although ruffe consumed more amphipods than yellow perch, perch consumed more chironomids than ruffe on bare cobble. The presence of zebra mussel shells altered the relative consumption of invertebrates in some substrate-light combinations. Experiments such as these help to improve understanding of the direct and indirect effects of predation between and among native and nonindigenous species that may exert structuring forces on the nearshore communities of the Great Lakes currently or in the future.
Additional publication details
Interactions among zebra mussel shells, invertebrate prey, and Eurasian ruffe or yellow perch