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Feeding ecology of age-0 gar at Lake Texoma inferred from analysis of stable isotopes

May 12, 2020

Conservation and restoration of gar (Lepisosteidae) populations in North America are increasingly of interest to fisheries managers. Alligator Gar Atractosteus spatula are being stocked as age-0 fish in efforts to re-establish extirpated populations. However, gars are known to be highly cannibalistic in hatcheries, suggesting that age-0 Alligator Gar introduced into natural habitats may face predation pressures from other gar species, limiting the likelihood of released fish recruiting to the population. Furthermore, introduced age-0 gar may not have the proper prey resources for rapid growth that would facilitate recruitment to adulthood. Texoma Reservoir, located on the Oklahoma–Texas border, hosts four native gar species, including the Alligator Gar, whose population is supported by supplemental stocking of age-0 fingerlings. We investigated feeding by age-0 gar to obtain a baseline level of trophic ecology for this group of fishes, including the potential for poststocking cannibalism. Food webs were reconstructed via analysis of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes using Bayesian mixing model approaches. Isotopic values for age-0 fish of all four gar species were similar. Invertebrates represented a large fraction of the diet for all gars, followed by Common Carp Cyprinus carpio and Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella. Competitive interactions among Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, White Bass Morone chrysops, White Crappie Pomoxis annularis, and young gar may occur for invertebrates, shads Dorosoma spp., and Western Mosquitofish Gambusia affinis but are likely short-lived due to the rapid growth of age-0 gar after their transition to piscivory. Trophic position of age-0 Alligator Gar, Longnose Gar Lepisosteus osseus, and Spotted Gar Lepisosteus oculatus was positively related to TL, but this relationship was not observed for Shortnose Gar Lepisosteus platostomus. In Texoma Reservoir, the four native gar species, including stocked Alligator Gar, appear to have adequate food resources for recruitment, with little indication of within-family or interspecific predation. This suggests that stocked Alligator Gar quickly acclimated to their new environment.

Publication Year 2020
Title Feeding ecology of age-0 gar at Lake Texoma inferred from analysis of stable isotopes
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10436
Authors R. A. Snow, D.R. Stewart, M. J. Porta, James M. Long
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70226671
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta