Sculpin and round goby assessment, Lake Ontario 2012

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Historically slimy sculpin Cottus cognatus were the most abundant native, benthic prey fish in Lake Ontario and important prey for juvenile lake trout. Over the past 34 years, slimy sculpin abundance has fluctuated, but generally decreased, with a substantial decline occurring in the past 10 years. The 2012 slimy sculpin mean density (0.005 ind.·m-2, sd=0.012, n=62) and mean biomass density (0.058 g·m-2 , s.d= 0.120, n=62) were the lowest recorded in the 27 years of sampling using the original bottom trawl design. An absence of slimy sculpin less than 50mm (age-0) in the past 10 years suggests population declines are the result of reduced recruitment potentially due to predation or reduced reproductive effort. Over the entire time series, the depth of maximum slimy sculpin abundance has steadily increased from 65m to 125m. Depthassociated sculpin behavior may be a result of water clarity changes that intensify predation risk at shallower depths or a food related response where sculpin have moved deeper to habitats that still support low densities of Diporeia, a favored food source. In the fall of 2012, round goby density (0.526 individuals·m-2) was two orders of magnitude greater than slimy sculpin, suggesting round goby are now the dominant benthic prey fish in Lake Ontario. Invasive species, piscivory, and declines in native benthic invertebrates are likely important drivers of slimy sculpin population dynamics.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
State/Local Government Series
Sculpin and round goby assessment, Lake Ontario 2012
Year Published:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Publisher location:
Albany, NY
Contributing office(s):
Great Lakes Science Center
10 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
State/Local Government Series
Larger Work Title:
2012 Annual Report
First page:
Last page:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Lake Ontario