Spatial Heterogeneity in Prey Availability, Feeding Success, and Dietary Selectivity for the Threatened Longfin Smelt

Arthur Barros, James A. Hobbs, Malte Willmes, Christina M. Parker, Micah Bisson, Nann A. Fangue, Andrew L. Rypel, Levi S. Lewis
2022 Estuaries and Coasts  
AbstractFood availability is a key determinant of the nursery value of a given habitat for larval and juvenile fishes. Growth, survival, and recruitment success are often inter-correlated and influenced by prey availability and associated feeding success. This is likely true for the threatened population of Longfin Smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys) in the San Francisco Estuary (SFE) which has collapsed in recent decades along with its preferred prey. In years with high precipitation and
more » ... outflow, larval Longfin Smelt are found in shallow wetland habitats throughout the SFE, but variation in the availability of food and feeding success in these habitats remains unexplored. To examine spatial variation in the trophic value of different rearing habitats, we quantified variation in prey availability, feeding success, and prey selection for larval and juvenile Longfin Smelt captured in restored tidal marshes, sloughs, and open-water habitats in the northern and southern SFE. Prey abundance varied spatially, with densities approximately tenfold greater in southern sloughs and restored tidal ponds relative to northern and open-water habitats. Feeding success of larval Longfin Smelt was positively correlated with both fish length and prey density. Larval Longfin Smelt fed selectively on the copepod Eurytemora affinis, with larger individuals (> 25 mm total length) exhibiting an ontogenetic diet shift to larger mysid shrimps. Our results suggest that wetland habitats across the SFE vary greatly in their trophic value, with previously unexplored habitats exhibiting the highest densities of prey and the highest foraging success for larval Longfin Smelt.
doi:10.1007/s12237-021-01024-y fatcat:6xidvx76bne7ncszwgfdoyq7ou