First-season growth and food of YOY pike (Esox lucius) are habitat specific within a lake

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Piscivorous fish are important predators in aquatic systems and as such they can have far-reaching effects on ecosystem composition and function. These effects depend on piscivore predation rates and behaviour, and recruitment of young-of-the-year fish into piscivory can hereby govern ecosystem properties. Growth and recruitment can differ between water bodies due to e.g. general productivity, but information on variation in juvenile growth and body condition between habitats within water bodies is scant. We here evaluate growth, body condition, food occurrence and stomach contents of an important piscivore, pike (Esox lucius), over the first growth season in two contrasting and spatially separated homogenous habitat types (emergent and submerged vegetation separated by 50 m of open sand) within the same lake. Individual size and body condition in pike were higher in the submerged vegetation early in the season, whereas by the end of their first summer pike were larger and in higher body condition in the emergent vegetation, in spite of occurrence of zooplankton, macroinvertebrates and fish prey being overall higher in the submerged vegetation. Pike showed habitat-specific patterns of macroinvertebrate consumption (higher in the submerged vegetation) and date-specific patterns of zooplankton (higher early in the season), macroinvertebrate (lower late in the season) and fish (higher later in the season) consumption that were not a result of occurrence of food types, as occurrence and consumption patterns did not match. We conclude that pike that hatched in the emergent vegetation habitat were larger towards the end of the season and, hence, these pike should have a higher survival probability and possibly contribute more to pike population density and predation at older ages, but also that submerged vegetation provides an alternative and added recruitment environment for pike in shallow lake ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106563
JournalFisheries Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology

Free keywords

  • Habitat
  • Piscivore recruitment
  • Vegetation
  • Within-lake


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