Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 9, pp 2565–2580 | Cite as

Niche plasticity in invasive fishes in the Great Lakes

  • Harri Pettitt-Wade
  • Kyle W. Wellband
  • Daniel D. Heath
  • Aaron T. Fisk
Original Paper


The geographic range of an invasive species is a key determinant of relative impact in the invaded region. Comparison of invasive species that are widespread or rare in invaded ranges can highlight mechanistic traits that determine the risk of impact from invasion. Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) is more geographically widespread and abundant than Tubenose Goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris) across invaded ranges of the Laurentian Great Lakes. We used stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in liver and muscle to contrast the isotopic niche breadth and niche plasticity of Round Goby and Tubenose Goby near the inflow and outflow of Lake St. Clair and in western Lake Superior. At all sites, Round Goby and Tubenose Goby that matched in size (21–53 mm standard length) had distinct isotopic niches with no overlap, driven by higher δ15N in Round Goby. The variation in isotopic niche, and the mean difference in δ13C and δ15N between muscle and liver, was greater for Round Goby, suggesting both greater seasonal shifts in diet and niche plasticity in this more widely established invader. Round Goby that were significantly larger than Tubenose Goby had broader isotopic niches and greater niche plasticity in the majority of cases and this was associated with isotopic niche overlap with smaller Round Goby and Tubenose Goby. Our findings suggest that a broad and plastic isotopic niche provides scope for wider establishment range in invasive fish species.


Round Goby Tubenose Goby Isotopic niche Niche plasticity Great Lakes 



We are thankful to Eric Berglund and the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit (MNR) for assistance in Thunder Bay collections. Kelly McKlean, Jessica O’Neil, Colin van Overdijk, Samir Qureshi, Matthew Renaud, Andrea Lespeance, Jason Barsotta, Erin Donnelly, Kylie Dean, Amy Tanner, Brittany Charron, Jake Nix, Katerina Stojanovic, and particularly Anna Hussey for laboratory and field assistance. We are grateful for funding from NSERC Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network (CAISN II) to ATF and DH, and the Ontario Trillium Award scholarship for HPW. This research was conducted with approval from the University of Windsor Animal Care Committee and with the OMNR License to Collect Fish for Scientific Purposes.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harri Pettitt-Wade
    • 1
  • Kyle W. Wellband
    • 1
  • Daniel D. Heath
    • 1
  • Aaron T. Fisk
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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