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Diet overlap of top-level predators in recent sympatry: bull trout and nonnative lake trout

January 1, 2011

The establishment of nonnative lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in lakes containing lacustrine–adfluvial bull trout Salvelinus confluentus often results in a precipitous decline in bull trout abundance. The exact mechanism for the decline is unknown, but one hypothesis is related to competitive exclusion for prey resources. We had the rare opportunity to study the diets of bull trout and nonnative lake trout in Swan Lake, Montana during a concomitant study. The presence of nonnative lake trout in Swan Lake is relatively recent and the population is experiencing rapid population growth. The objective of this study was to evaluate the diets of bull trout and lake trout during the early expansion of this nonnative predator. Diets were sampled from 142 bull trout and 327 lake trout during the autumn in 2007 and 2008. Bull trout and lake trout had similar diets, both consumed Mysis diluviana as the primary invertebrate, especially at juvenile stages, and kokanee Oncorhynchus nerka as the primary vertebrate prey, as adults. A diet shift from primarily M. diluviana to fish occurred at similar lengths for both species, 506 mm (476–545 mm, 95% CI) for bull trout and 495 mm (470–518 mm CI) for lake trout. These data indicate high diet overlap between these two morphologically similar top-level predators. Competitive exclusion may be a possible mechanism if the observed overlap remains similar at varying prey densities and availability.

Publication Year 2011
Title Diet overlap of top-level predators in recent sympatry: bull trout and nonnative lake trout
DOI 10.3996/012011-JFWM-004
Authors Christopher S. Guy, Thomas E. McMahon, Wade A. Fredenberg, Clinton J. Smith, David W. Garfield, Benjamin S. Cox
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Index ID 70003676
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit