Trophic connections in Lake Superior Part II: The nearshore fish community

Allison E. Gamble, Thomas R Hrabik, Daniel L. Yule, Jason D. Stockwell

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61 Scopus citations


We use detailed diet analyses of the predominant planktivorous, benthivorous and piscivorous fish species from Lake Superior to create a nearshore (bathymetric depths < 80. m) fish community food web. The food web was based on analysis of 5125 fish stomachs collected seasonally (spring, summer, fall) from 9 nearshore sites in 2005. Based on mass of prey items, nearshore diets across all sites and seasons were similarly structured with a dominance of macroinvertebrates (Mysis diluviana and Diporeia spp). Although the piscivorous fishes like lean lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) fed to a lesser extent on Diporeia and Mysis, they were still strongly connected to these macroinvertebrates, which were consumed by their primary prey species (sculpin spp., rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax, and coregonines). The addition of Bythotrephes to summer/fall cisco and lake whitefish diets, and the decrease in rainbow smelt in lean lake trout diets (replaced by coregonines) were the largest observed differences relative to historic Lake Superior diet studies. Although the offshore food web of Lake Superior was simpler than nearshore in terms of number of fish species present, the two areas had remarkably similar food web structures, and both fish communities were primarily supported by Mysis and Diporeia. We conclude that declines in Mysis or Diporeia populations would have a significant impact on energy flow in Lake Superior. The food web information we generated can be used to better identify management strategies for Lake Superior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-560
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by Minnesota Sea Grant (R/F-15), EPA-GLNPO , USGS Lake Superior Biological Station , University of Minnesota Duluth , US EPA (Mid-Continent Ecology Division, Duluth, MN) , Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources , and the Department of Fisheries and Ocean s Canada . We are deeply grateful to the crew of the USGS R/V Kiyi , and to Lori Evrard, E.J. Isaac, and Suzan Johnson. This work would not have been possible without their generous assistance. This article was improved by reviews from D. Branstrator, B. Vondracek, S. Sitar, J. Schaeffer, and two anonymous reviewers. This article is Contribution 1649 of the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.


  • Diporeia
  • Fish diets
  • Lake Superior
  • Mysis
  • Nearshore food web
  • Offshore


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