Feeding Ecology of Native and Nonnative Salmonids during the Expansion of a Nonnative Apex Predator in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park


John M Syslo, Christopher S Guy, Todd M Koel


Transactions of the American Fisheries Society


The illegal introduction of Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush into Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, preceded the collapse of the native population of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri, producing a four-level trophic cascade. The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout population's collapse and the coinciding increase in Lake Trout abundance provided a rare opportunity to evaluate the feeding ecology of a native prey species and a nonnative piscivore species after the restructuring of a large lentic ecosystem. We assessed diets, stable isotope signatures, and depth-related CPUE patterns for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and Lake Trout during 2011-2013 to evaluate trophic overlap. To evaluate diet shifts related to density, we also compared 2011-2013 diets to those from studies conducted during previous periods with contrasting Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and Lake Trout CPUEs. We illustrate the complex interactions between predator and prey in a simple assemblage and demonstrate how a nonnative apex predator can alter competitive interactions. The diets of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout were dominated by zooplankton during a period when the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout CPUE was high and were dominated by amphipods when the CPUE was reduced. Lake Trout shifted from a diet that was dominated by Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout during the early stages of the invasion to a diet that was dominated by amphipods after Lake Trout abundance had increased and after Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout prey had declined. The shifts in Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout and Lake Trout diets resulted in increased trophic similarity of these species through time due to their shared reliance on benthic amphipods. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout not only face the threat posed by Lake Trout predation but also face the potential threat of competition with Lake Trout if amphipods are limiting. Our results demonstrate the importance of studying the long-term feeding ecology of fishes in invaded ecosystems. Received August 24, 2015; accepted December 23, 2015 Published online April 14, 2016



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