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Seasonal shift in the effects of predators on juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) energetics

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Predator effects on prey populations are determined by the number of prey consumed and effects on the traits of surviving prey. Yet the effects of predators on prey traits are rarely evaluated in field studies. We measured the effects of predators on energetic traits (consumption and growth rates) of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in a large-scale field study. Salmon fry were released at 18 sites that encompassed a wide range of predatory slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) abundance. We sampled salmon after 21 and 140 days to measure salmon growth and estimate consumption using a mass-balance model of methylmercury accumulation. Salmon population density was reduced fivefold at sites with abundant sculpin. Over the early season, salmon consumed less where sculpin were abundant, suggesting that reduced foraging under predation risk contributed to predator-caused mortality. In contrast, over the late season, salmon grew more where sculpin were abundant, suggesting that compensatory growth at reduced salmon population density moderated predator-caused mortality. Predator effects on prey energetics can drive variation in survival and growth, with important consequences for population dynamics.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/f2011-123

Affiliations: 1: USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.

Publication date: December 6, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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