Niche partitioning among native ciscoes and nonnative Rainbow Smelt in Lake Superior

Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
By: , and 



Several species of ciscoes Coregonus, subgenus Leucichthys that are native to the Laurentian Great Lakes are rare or extirpated. The restoration of Coregonus fishes is being actively pursued through stocking, and success may depend on the availability of unoccupied niche space. We described the spring–summer habitat occupancy and diets of three native cisco species (Bloater Coregonus hoyi, Cisco C. artedi, and Kiyi C. Kiyi) and invasive Rainbow Smelt Osmerus mordax in Lake Superior and measured niche overlap among these species for both small and large sizes. The potential habitat area was highest for Cisco and Kiyi, followed by Bloater and Rainbow Smelt. The probability of overlap in habitat occupation, as measured by bathymetric depth, fish capture depth, distance from shore, and fish capture water temperature was highest for small Rainbow Smelt and Cisco. Trophic overlap, as measured by stomach contents and stable isotopes, was highest between small Bloater and Cisco and between large Bloater and Kiyi. All of the species showed significant ontogenetic change in both habitat occupation and diet. The overall niche overlap in spring–summer habitat and diet was greatest between small Cisco and Rainbow Smelt and between large Bloater and Kiyi; however, differences in individual niche dimensions likely limit competition for both species pairs. Synthesizing the diet and habitat niche data revealed nuanced niches that allow these seemingly similar planktivorous species to coexist. Kiyi had the least niche overlap with other cisco species and Rainbow Smelt, so from an available niche perspective Kiyi would be a strong candidate for reintroduction into lakes from which they were extirpated.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Niche partitioning among native ciscoes and nonnative Rainbow Smelt in Lake Superior
Series title Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
DOI 10.1002/tafs.10219
Volume 149
Issue 2
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Fisheries Society
Contributing office(s) Great Lakes Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 184
Last page 203
Country United States, Canada
Other Geospatial Lake Superior
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details