Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Salmon egg subsidies and interference competition among stream fishes


Resource availability may modulate interference interactions among competitors. For example, competition among stream fishes for drifting eggs from salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) spawning events may be influenced by the availability of this energy-rich food source. This study used camera-based techniques to evaluate the effect of varied prey availability (i.e., pink salmon (O. gorbuscha) eggs) on rates of interference competition within natural stream fish communities at 10 sites. Aggressive interactions were quantified across different levels of egg additions, ranging from 6 to 3575 O. gorbuscha eggs, at 10 sites on the Keogh River, British Columbia, Canada. There were fewer aggressive interactions among salmonids (O. kisutch, O. mykiss, and O. clarkii clarkii) when there were more available eggs. Aggressive interaction rates were species-dependent; for example, the number of aggressive acts relative to null expectations based on abundances were highest in juvenile coho (O. kisutch) towards conspecifics. For some interactions, size of fish appeared to be a key factor as well. Thus, higher densities of spawning salmon in streams may provide sufficient prey resources in the form of eggs to temporarily decrease interference competition among stream fishes.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Adams CE, Huntingford FA, Krpal J, Jobling M, Burnett SJ (1995) Exercise, agonistic behavior and food acquisition in Arctic Charr, Salvelinus alpinus. Environ Biol Fish 43:213–218. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00002494

  2. Armstrong JB, Bond MH (2013) Phenotype flexibility in wild fish: Dolly Varden regulate assimilative capacity to capitalize on annual pulsed subsidies. J Anim Ecol 82:966–975. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12066

  3. Armstrong JB, Schindler DE (2011) Excess digestive capacity in predators reflects a life of feast and famine. Nature 476:84–87. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10240

  4. Ayllón D, Almodóvar A, Nicola GG et al (2012) Modelling carrying capacity dynamics for the conservation and management of territorial salmonids. Fish Res 134–136:95–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2012.08.004

  5. Bailey CJ, Braun DC, McCubbing D et al (2018) The roles of extrinsic and intrinsic factors in the freshwater life-history dynamics of a migratory salmonid. Ecosphere 9:e02397. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2397

  6. Bain MB, Stevenson NJ (eds) (1999) Aquatic habitat assessment: common methods. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD

  7. Baltz DM, Moyle PB, Knight NJ (1982) Competitive interactions between benthic stream fishes, riffle sculpin, Cottus gulosus , and speckled dace, Rhinichthys osculus. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 39:1502–1511. https://doi.org/10.1139/f82-202

  8. Baxter CV, Fausch KD, Saunders WC (2005) Tangled webs: reciprocal flows of invertebrate prey link streams and riparian zones. Freshw Biol 50:201–220. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2004.01328.x

  9. Birch LC (1957) The meanings of competition. Am Nat 91:5–18

  10. Brett JR (1952) Temperature tolerance in young Pacific salmon, genus Oncorhynchus. J Fish Res Board Can 9:265–323. https://doi.org/10.1139/f52-016

  11. Brittain JE, Eikeland TJ (1988) Invertebrate drift - a review. Hydrobiologia 166:77–93. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00017485

  12. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information theoretic approach, 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag Inc., New York, New York

  13. Cutts CJ, Metcalfe NB, Taylor AC (1998) Aggression and growth depression in juvenile Atlantic salmon: the consequences of individual variation in standard metabolic rate. J Fish Biol 52:1026–1037. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.1998.tb00601.x

  14. Denton KP, Rich HB, Quinn TP (2009) Diet, movement, and growth of Dolly Varden in response to sockeye salmon subsidies. Trans Am Fish Soc 138:1207–1219. https://doi.org/10.1577/T09-006.1

  15. Dunlop KM, Marian Scott E, Parsons D, Bailey DM (2014) Do agonistic behaviours bias baited remote underwater video surveys of fish? Mar Ecol 36:810–818. https://doi.org/10.1111/maec.12185

  16. Ebner B, Clear R, Godschalx S, Beitzel M (2009) In-stream behaviour of threatened fishes and their food organisms based on remote video monitoring. Aquat Ecol 43:569–576. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10452-008-9192-9

  17. Essington TE, Quinn TP, Ewert VE (2000) Intra- and inter-specific competition and the reproductive success of sympatric Pacific salmon. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 57:205–213. https://doi.org/10.1139/f99-198

  18. Fausti K, Dugaw D, Chambers J, et al (2004) Stream channel methods for core attributes. In: Multi-federal Agency Monitoring Program, Logan, Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Program and PACFISH/INFISH Biological Opinions (PIBO), Corvallis (eds) Effectiveness monitoring for streams and r. Corvallis, OR

  19. Furey NB, Hinch SG, Lotto AG, Beauchamp DA (2015) Extensive feeding on sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka smolts by bull trout Salvelinus confluentus during initial outmigration into a small, unregulated and inland British Columbia river. J Fish Biol 86. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.12567

  20. Glova GJ (1986) Interaction for food and space between experimental populations of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and coastal cutthroat trout (Salmo clarki) in a laboratory stream. Hydrobiologia 131:155–168. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00006779

  21. Grant JWA, Kramer DL (1990) Territory size as a predictor of the upper limit to population density of juvenile salmonids in streams. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:1724–1737. https://doi.org/10.1139/f90-197

  22. Harwood AJ, Metcalfe NB, Griffiths SW, Armstrong JD (2002) Intra- and inter-specific competition for winter concealment habitat in juvenile salmonids. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 59:1515–1523. https://doi.org/10.1139/f02-119

  23. Imre I, Grant JWA, Keeley ER (2004) The effect of food abundance on territory size and population density of juvenile steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Oecologia 138:371–378. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-003-1432-z

  24. Johnston NT, Perrin CJ, Slaney PA, Ward BR (1990) Increased juvenile salmonid growth by whole-river fertilization. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 47:862–872

  25. Kaspersson R, Höjesjö J, Pedersen S (2010) Effects of density on foraging success and aggression in age-structured groups of brown trout. Anim Behav 79:709–715. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.12.025

  26. Kawai H, Nagayama S, Urabe H, Akasaka T, Nakamura F (2014) Combining energetic profitability and cover effects to evaluate salmonid habitat quality. Environ Biol Fish 97:575–586. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-013-0217-4

  27. Keenleyside MHA, Yamamoto FT (1962) Territorial behaviour of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.). Behaviour 19:139–169

  28. Mason JC (1976) Response of underyearling coho salmon to supplemental feeding in a natural stream. J Wildl Manag 40:775–788

  29. McCubbing DJF (2002) Adult steelhead trout and salmonid smolt migration at the Keogh River, B.C. during spring 2002. Port Hardy, BC

  30. McCubbing DFJ, Ward B, Burroughs L (1999) Salmonid escapement enumeration on the Keogh River: a demonstration of a resistivity counter in British Columbia. Fish Tech Circ No 104:1–22

  31. Metcalfe NB (1986) Intraspecific variation in competitive ability and food intake in salmonids: consequences for energy budgets and growth rates. J Fish Biol 28:525–531. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.1986.tb05190.x

  32. Moore JW, Daniel SE, Ruff CP (2008) Habitat saturation drives thresholds in stream subsidies. Ecology 89:306–312

  33. Moore JW, Beakes MP, Nesbitt HK et al (2015) Emergent stability in a large, free-flowing watershed. Ecology 96:340–347. https://doi.org/10.1890/14-0326.1

  34. Moutou KA, McCarthy ID, Houlihan DF (1998) The effect of ration level and social rank on the development of fin damage in juvenile rainbow trout. J Fish Biol 52:756–770. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.1998.tb00818.x

  35. Nakano S (1995) Competitive interactions for foraging microhabitats in a size-structured interspecific dominance hierarchy of two sympatric stream salmonids in a natural habitat. Can J Zool 73:1845–1854. https://doi.org/10.1139/z95-217

  36. Newman MA (1956) Social behavior and interspecific competition in two trout species. Physiol Zool 29:64–81

  37. Noble C, Mizusawa K, Suzuki K, Tabata M (2007) The effect of differing self-feeding regimes on the growth, behaviour and fin damage of rainbow trout held in groups. Aquaculture 264:214–222. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquaculture.2006.12.028

  38. Norin T, Clark TD (2017) Fish face a trade-off between ‘eating big’ for growth efficiency and ‘eating small’ to retain aerobic capacity. Biol Lett 13:3–6. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2017.0298

  39. Preston DL, Henderson JS, Falke LP et al (2018) What drives interaction strengths in complex food webs? A test with feeding rates of a generalist stream predator. Ecology 99:1591–1601. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2387

  40. Quinn TP, Dittman AH, Barrett H, Cunningham C, Bond MH (2012) Chemosensory responses of juvenile Coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, Dolly Varden, Salvelinus malma, and sculpins (Cottus spp.) to eggs and other tissues from adult Pacific salmon. Environ Biol Fish 95:301–307. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-012-9996-2

  41. R Core Team (2019). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. http://www.R-project.org/

  42. Rashleigh B, Grossman GD (2005) An individual-based simulation model for mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi) in a southern Appalachian stream. Ecol Model 187:247–258. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2005.01.047

  43. Richter A, Kolmes SA (2005) Maximum temperature limits for Chinook, Coho, and chum salmon, and steelhead trout in the Pacific Northwest. Rev Fish Sci 13:23–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/10641260590885861

  44. Ruff CP, Schindler DE, Armstrong JB et al (2011) Temperature-associated population diversity in salmon confers benefits to mobile consumers. Ecology 92:2073–2084. https://doi.org/10.1890/10-1762.1

  45. Scheuerell MD, Moore JW, Schindler DE, Harvey CJ (2007) Varying effects of anadromous sockeye salmon on the trophic ecology of two species of resident salmonids in Southwest Alaska. Freshw Biol 52:1944–1956. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2007.01823.x

  46. Slaney PA, Northcote TG (1974) Effects of prey abundance on density and territorial behavior of young rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) in laboratory stream channels. 31(7):1201–1209

  47. Smith HA, Slaney PA (1980) Age, growth, survival and habitat of anadromous Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) in the Keogh River, British Columbia. Victoria, BC

  48. Smith BD, Ward BR (2000) Trends in wild adult steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) abundance for snowmelt-driven watersheds of British Columbia in relation to freshwater discharge. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 57:271–284. https://doi.org/10.1139/f99-255

  49. Swain NR, Hocking MD, Harding JN, Reynold JD (2014) Effects of salmon on the diet and condition of stream-resident sculpins. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 71:521–532. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2013-0159

  50. Taniguchi Y, Rahel FJ, Novinger DC, Gerow KG (1998) Temperature mediation of competitive interactions among three fish species that replace eachother along longitudinal gradients. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1894–1901

  51. Usio N, Nakano S (1998) Influences of microhabitat use and foraging mode similarities on intra- and interspecific aggressive interactions in a size-structured stream fish assemblage. Ichthyol Res 45:19–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02678571

  52. Ward BR, Wightman JC (1989) Monitoring steelhead trout at the Keogh River as an index of stock status and smolt-to-adult survival: correlations with other data sources. Vancouver, BC

  53. Wesner JS, Walters DM, Zuellig RE (2019) Pulsed salmonfly emergence and its potential contribution to terrestrial detrital pools. Food Webs 18:e00105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fooweb.2018.e00105

  54. Young KA (2004) Asymmetric competition, habitat selection, and niche overlap in juvenile salmonids. Ecology 85:134–149

Download references


Funding for this research was provided by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Simon Fraser University, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Liber Ero Foundation. Special thanks to InStream Fisheries Research for their support in this research and all those who assisted in data collection: K. Chezik, C. Pan and K. Seitz.


This study was funded by BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (grant no. 21653), the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund (grant no. 20520), Simon Fraser University, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grant no.s 04066 and 507835) and the Liber Ero Foundation (grant no. 14334).

Author information

Correspondence to C. J. Bailey.

Ethics declarations

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Canadian Animal Care Committee (CACC) and Simon Fraser University.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 21 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bailey, C.J., Andersson, L.C., Arbeider, M. et al. Salmon egg subsidies and interference competition among stream fishes. Environ Biol Fish 102, 915–926 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-019-00880-9

Download citation


  • Aggression
  • Fish community
  • Resource superabundance
  • Competitive interactions
  • Oncorhynchus sp