Round gobies, invasive fish that entered Lake Erie in 1994, are altering energy, contaminant, and nutrient pathways. Our objective was to quantify how they alter energy pathways in the central basin of Lake Erie by describing their diet and identifying the degree to which predatory fish feed upon round gobies. We used bioenergetic models parameterized with data collected in the central basin between 1995 and 2002 to estimate the type and amount of prey eaten, the biomass accumulation rate for the round goby population, and a partitioning of the food energy into "new" energy derived from dreissenids as opposed to existing energy derived from Zooplankton and non-dreissenid benthic prey. Mean (?? SE) prey consumption peaked at 5.98 ?? 2.17 ?? 10 4 tonnes wet mass in 1999 coincident with the maximum population size of 4.2 ?? 1.5 billion round gobies. Zooplankton (40.2% by biomass) and dreissenid mussels (38.3%) dominated the prey consumed. Almost 90% of the Zooplankton biomass was consumed by age-0 round gobies, while over 80% of the dreissenids were eaten by older ages. Standing stock biomass of round gobies ranged between 203 and 4,803 tonnes y-1 (interannual range), with an additional 475 to 8,943 tonnes of biomass accumulating through growth each year. Piscivorous fish showed an increasing reliance on round gobies as prey, with round gobies being the dominant prey fish in the diets of benthic-oriented predators. Hence, by being one of the few benthivores that exploit dreissenid mussels as prey, our analyses reveal that round gobies transfer new energy up the central Lake Erie food web.
Additional publication details
A potential new energy pathway in Central Lake Erie: The round goby connection