Deepwater sculpins (Myoxocephalus thompsonii) are an important link in deepwater benthic foodwebs of the Great Lakes. Little information exists about deepwater sculpin spawning habits and early life history ecology due to difficulty in sampling deep offshore habitats. Larval and age-0 deepwater sculpins collected in northern Lake Huron and the Detroit River during 2007 were used to improve our understanding of their habitat use, diet, age, and growth. Peak larval density reached 8.4/1000 m3 in the Detroit River during April and was higher than that in Lake Huron. Offshore bottom trawls at DeTour and Hammond Bay first collected benthic age-0 deepwater sculpins in early September when fish were ≥ 25 mm TL. Otolith analysis revealed that hatch dates for pelagic larvae occurred during late March and larvae remained pelagic for 40 to 60 days. Diet of pelagic larvae (10–21 mm TL) was dominated by calanoid copepods at all sample locations. Diets of benthic age-0 fish varied by location and depth: Mysis and chironomids were prevalent in fish from Hammond Bay and the 91 m site at DeTour, but only chironomids were found in fish from the 37 m DeTour site. This work showed that nearshore epilimnetic sites were important for pelagic larvae and an ontogenetic shift from pelagic planktivore to benthivore occurred at about 25 mm TL in late summer. Age analysis showed that larvae remained pelagic long enough to be transported through the St. Clair–Detroit River system, Lake Erie, and the Niagara River, potentially contributing to populations in Lake Ontario.
Additional publication details
Diet and habitat use by age-0 deepwater sculpins in northern Lake Huron, Michigan and the Detroit River