, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 277-288

Dietary shifts in a stressed fish assemblage: Consequences of a bivalve invasion in the San Francisco Estuary

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Abstract

We compared dietary patterns within a temperate estuarine fish assemblage (Suisun Marsh, CA, U.S.A.) during a period of high mysid shrimp abundance and after a major decline in mysid abundance caused by the invasion of the overbite clam Potamocorbula amurensis. Prior to the invasion, high dietary overlap, high stomach fullness, and low niche breadth occurred among the fishes in spring when mysid populations were high. Dietary overlaps decreased and niche breadth increased for all species but the endemic splittail Pogonichthys macrolepidotus in fall when mysid populations were low. Eight native species exhibited lower overall collective overlaps and fuller stomachs than five alien species, suggesting more efficient resource partitioning. After mysid abundance declined, only alien striped bass Morone saxatilis preyed upon mysids in greater than trace amounts. An alien mysid became an important prey for small striped bass, but striped bass also switched to piscivory at a smaller size than when mysids were abundant. Eight of 13 species exhibited significant declines in abundance during the study period, which were concordant with the original importance of mysids in their diets. Our results suggest that altered lower food web dynamics in the San Francisco Estuary caused by the invasion of the overbite clam changed fish diets and have contributed to declines in fish abundance.