Trophic relationships of nonnative brown trout, Salmo trutta, and native Bonneville cutthroat trout, Oncorhynchus clarkii utah, in a northern Utah, USA river

  • Peter McHugh
  • Phaedra Budy
  • Gary Thiede
  • Erin VanDyke
Original Paper


Nonnative trout invasions have caused the widespread decline of cutthroat trout populations in western North America. In contrast to other nonnative salmonids, the role of nonnative brown trout in native cutthroat trout decline is poorly understood. Specifically, the level of ecological similarity that occurs between these species and the importance of other trophic mechanisms (e.g., predation) in their interactions are key uncertainties. We evaluated the trophic relationships of brown trout and cutthroat trout in a northern Utah river using a combination of diet and stable isotope analyses. We compared the dietary habits of these two species using multiple and complementary measures. Based on both stomach contents and δ13C signatures, we found that these species consumed a similar and opportunistic diet (i.e., they were nonselective in their foraging patterns). However, at most sizes, brown trout ingested larger prey—including fishes—and occupied a higher relative trophic position (i.e., δ15N) than cutthroat trout. Overall, these results demonstrate a high degree of dietary similarity and therefore strengthen earlier conclusions regarding interspecific competition between these two species. Our study, when considered alongside the work of others, suggests there is potential for predatory interactions between these species (i.e., brown trout preying on small cutthroat trout). We believe that future research on brown trout–cutthroat trout interactions should consider predatory effects in greater detail.


Nonnative species Cutthroat trout Brown trout Competition Predation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter McHugh
    • 1
  • Phaedra Budy
    • 1
  • Gary Thiede
    • 1
  • Erin VanDyke
    • 1
  1. 1.USGS Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of AWER, College of Natural ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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