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Interspecific interactions affecting the foraging behavior of chum salmon fry (Oncorhynchus keta) Tompkins, Arlene Marie


Interactions between fish utilizing nearshore habitats of the Fraser River estuary were investigated by field observations and laboratory experiments. Chum salmon fry (Oncorhynchus keta) were the most abundant salmonid captured between April and June. Non-salmonid species captured included: threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), prickly sculpin (Coitus asper), and peamouth chub (Mylocheilus caurinus). Potential predators included: prickly sculpin, and northern squawfish (Ptychocheilus oregonensis), but few had been feeding on fish. Chum fry fed predominantly on surface insects but the proportion of benthic prey in the diet increased over time. Stickleback shared the greatest diet overlap with chum fry. Interactions between two dissimilar prey, chum fry and threespine stickleback, and a predator, cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) were investigated in the laboratory. Prey response to hungry and satiated predators was related to the degree of risk. Although attack rates by trout on chum and stickleback were similar, trout captured more stickleback than chum, but consumed both prey at similar rates. I tested the hypotheses that prey foraging efficiency is reduced in the presence of a predator and increased in the presence of alternate prey. When alone, chum fed on surface Drosophila and mid-water Daphnia, while stickleback fed on benthic Tubifex and Daphnia. The feeding efficiency of chum increased in the presence of stickleback and decreased in the presence of trout. Hatchery and wild chum showed opposite dietary shifts in the presence of trout. Hatchery chum shifted from surface to mid-water feeding and the number of fish feeding significantly decreased. Wild chum fed at the surface, at significantly decreased feeding rates. In the presence of stickleback and trout the feeding behaviour of chum was similar to that when chum were alone. Stickleback feeding behaviour was not affected by presence of trout or chum. Chum and stickleback detected Daphnia faster than Drosophila or Tubifex, and chum responded to Daphnia significantly faster than stickleback. Foraging time per item was significantly less for chum than stickleback. Habitat use by fish prey was investigated in the presence and absence of trout and alternate prey. Wild chum shifted from mid-water to the surface in the presence of trout, but returned to mid-water when stickleback were present. Stickleback fed in bottom habitats regardless of the presence of trout or chum. When prey were confined to specific depths in the water column, trout attacked chum more frequently than stickleback in all locations and attacked both prey more frequently within 24 cm of the substrate. Movement by prey did not affect the attack rate. When given a choice between a food-rich open water habitat and a food-deficient vegetated habitat in the presence of trout and alternate prey, chum and stickleback used vegetated refugia significantly more in the presence of trout. Alternate prey presence decreased the proportion of chum but increased the proportion of stickleback using vegetation. Behavioural responses to avoid predation significantly reduced the foraging efficiency of prey. Chum showed stronger responses to trout than stickleback. The presence of stickleback reduced the effect of predation on foraging efficiency. Possible explanations for the positive effect of stickleback on chum feeding efficiency were experimentally examined including: social facilitation, reduced intraspecific competition, and the calming influence of stickleback on chum behaviour ("dither"). The results suggest that stickleback have a calming influence on chum behaviour and that mixed species feeding groups may reduce intraspecific competition.

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