Evol Ecol Res 17: 317-334 (2016)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Long-term changes in the role of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
in the White Sea:
predatory fish consumption
reflects fluctuating stickleback abundance during the last century

A.E. Bakhvalova, T.S. Ivanova, M.V. Ivanov, A.S. Demchuk, E.A. Movchan and D.L. Lajus

St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia

Correspondence: D.L. Lajus, St. Petersburg State University, 7/9 Universitetskaya nab., St. Petersburg 199034, Russia. email: dlajus@gmail.com


Hypothesis: In the White Sea, predatory fish species have consumed higher proportions of stickleback during historical periods and seasons of high stickleback abundance.

Organisms: Adults, juveniles, and eggs of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), together with three species of predatory fishes: cod (Gadus morhua), saffron cod (Eleginus nawaga), and European sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius).

Place and times: Kandalaksha Bay, White Sea, Russia; June to August 2011–2014.

Analytical methods: Sampling with beach seine (stickleback) and gill nets (predatory fish). Analysis of predatory fish stomach contents (identification to the species level, counting, weighing), and in-depth survey of scientific literature on predatory fish diets over the last century.

Results: Near the spawning grounds, stickleback comprise 60% of the summer food of sculpin (adult stickleback), 52% of the diet of cod (adults, juveniles, and eggs), and 15% of the diet of saffron cod (juvenile stickleback). These data resemble observations made during a period of high stickleback abundance in the White Sea (1930–1950s). During a period of low abundance (1960s to early 2000s), stickleback were absent from the stomachs of predatory fish.

Keywords: Atlantic cod, Eleginus nawaga, European sculpin, Gadus morhua, Gasterosteus aculeatus, long-term changes, Myoxocephalus scorpius, predation, saffron cod, threespine stickleback, White Sea.

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