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Influence of egg predation and physical disturbance on lake trout Salvelinus namaycush egg mortality and implications for life-history theory

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The influence of egg predators and physical disturbance on lake trout Salvelinus namaycush egg mortality was investigated in situ in Lake Michigan where recruitment is below detectable levels and egg predator abundance is high. Comparisons were made with Lake Champlain where recruitment is low and egg predator abundance is also low and with Parry Sound (Lake Huron) where recruitment is moderate and egg predators are in low abundance. A multi-density egg seeding method (100 to 5000 eggs m−2) was used to quantify the effect of physical disturbance and egg predation on egg loss. Wind fetch was used as an index of physical disturbance and comparisons across all locations and egg densities suggested that at sites with high wind fetch (>5 km), physical disturbance may be a greater source of egg loss than predation. When analyses were limited to those sites having a wind fetch of <5 km, the percentage of eggs recovered was found to be linearly related to predator density. The strength of this relationship was based largely on egg recovery at 500 and 1000 eggs m−2 because recovery at lower (100, 250 eggs m−2) and very high (5000 eggs m−2) densities was not significantly related to predator density. The reason for this is probably that at low egg densities, crayfish Orconectes spp., the major egg predator at most sites, had difficulty finding and consuming eggs and at high egg densities they became satiated. Egg loss was directly related to wind fetch for Lake Michigan and on average six-fold greater than for Parry Sound suggesting that without corresponding changes in fecundity and age structure, lake trout populations in large lakes like Lake Michigan are inherently less productive than those from enclosed inland waters.
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Keywords: Great Lakes; eggs; lake trout; predation; wind fetch

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station, 96 Grant Street, Charlevoix, Michigan, 49720, U.S.A. 2: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 867 Lakeshore Road, Bington, Ontario, L7R 4A6, Canada 3: School of National Resources, Aiken Center, University of Vermont, Bington, Vermont, 05405, U.S.A. 4: U.S. Geological Service, Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory, 176 Straight Run Road, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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