, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 143-152

Feeding dynamics, nitrogen budgets, and ecosystem role of a desert stream omnivore, Agosia chrysogaster (Pisces: Cyprinidae)

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Synopsis

Feeding habits, diel periodicity and total daily ingestion, and nitrogen budgets of longfin dace (Agosia chrysogaster) were examined on two occasions when food quality, but not quantity, differed. Agosia chrysogaster was found to be an opportunistic omnivore, consuming primarily insects when the preferred taxon (baetid mayflies) was abundant in the environment, but consuming primarily algae when mayfly abundance was low. Ingestion provided a better measure of diel feeding periodicity than gut fullness; feeding was diurnal on both sample dates, but more markedly so when the primary food was algae. Mean nitrogen content of algal foods was low, and A. chrysogaster apparently compensated for this by increasing its daily ingestion rate when algae were the major food. A reduction in nitrogen content of food during digestion from 4–6% (of dry mass) to less than 1% (in feces) suggested a high assimilation efficiency for nitrogen (nitrogen assimilated/nitrogen consumed = 72–78%). Populations of this abundant and successful cyprinid in Sonoran Desert streams may play an important role in ecosystem nitrogen dynamics. Nitrogen stored in fish biomass comprised 3–6% of the total nitrogen stored in Sycamore Creek, and excretion of ammonia by the fish represented 5–10% of total nitrogen uptake by algae. Such rapid recycling of usable nitrogen to primary producers is significant in this nitrogen limited stream ecosystem.