Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss are one of the most widely stocked salmonids worldwide, often based on the assumption that they will effectively utilize abundant invertebrate food resources. We evaluated the potential for feeding morphology to affect prey selection by rainbow trout using a combination of laboratory feeding experiments and field observations in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah-Wyoming. For rainbow trout collected from the reservoir, inter-gill raker spacing averaged 1.09 mm and there was low variation among fish overall (SD = 0.28). Ninety-seven percent of all zooplankton observed in the diets of rainbow trout collected in the reservoir were larger than the interraker spacing, while only 29% of the zooplankton found in the environment were larger than the interraker spacing. Over the size range of rainbow trout evaluated here (200-475 mm), interraker spacing increased moderately with increasing fish length; however, the size of zooplankton found in the diet did not increase with increasing fish length. In laboratory experiments, rainbow trout consumed the largest zooplankton available; the mean size of zooplankton observed in the diets was significantly larger than the mean size of zooplankton available. Electivity indices for both laboratory and field observations indicated strong selection for larger-sized zooplankton. The size threshold at which electivity switched from selection against smaller-sized zooplankton to selection for larger-sized zooplankton closely corresponded to the mean interraker spacing for both groups (???1-1.2 mm). The combination of results observed here indicates that rainbow trout morphology limits the retention of different-sized zooplankton prey and reinforces the importance of understanding how effectively rainbow trout can utilize the type and sizes of different prey available in a given system. These considerations may improve our ability to predict the potential for growth and survival of rainbow trout within and among different systems. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2005.
Additional publication details
Zooplankton size selection relative to gill raker spacing in rainbow trout