Invertivory by northern pike (Esox lucius) structures communities of littoral macroinvertebrates in small boreal lakes

Paul A Venturelli, William M. Tonn

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22 Scopus citations


Recent comparative studies suggest that macroinvertebrates in small Boreal Plains lakes respond to large fluctuations in fish densities caused by winterkill and subsequent recovery even when such fluctuations involve the normally piscivorous northern pike (Esox lucius). We introduced pike into a boreal lake made fishless by a past winterkill to isolate experimentally the effects of pike on littoral macroinvertebrates. We compared postmanipulation macroinvertebrate data from the experimental lake (EXP) to premanipulation data from the same lake, to parallel data from 2 unmanipulated reference lakes (R1 and R2) containing pike, and to data from mesocosms within EXP. Pike in all 3 lakes preyed heavily upon macroinvertebrates; diets consisted predominantly of the amphipod Gammarus lacustris in R1 and R2 and erpobdellid leeches in EXP. Principal components analysis (PCA) of macroinvertebrate communities distinguished between systems with and without fish and detected a shift in the macroinvertebrate community of EXP and predator-exposed control mesocosms away from large conspicuous taxa (e.g., odonates, coleopterans, and leeches) toward less-conspicuous taxa such as dipterans and trichopterans following manipulation. Responses of individual taxa were generally in agreement with PCA; erpobdellid leeches and odonates showed consistent negative responses to pike. Our study provides experimental evidence at the whole-lake scale that northern pike can affect littoral macroinvertebrates in small boreal lakes, and demonstrates the sensitivity that littoral food webs in these systems can have to changes in the density of fish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)904-918
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the North American Benthological Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


  • Alberta
  • Disturbance
  • Erpobdellidae
  • Gammarus
  • Mesocosm
  • Predation
  • Principal components analysis
  • Randomized intervention analysis
  • Whole lake


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