Consumption of Non-Native Bigheaded Carps by Native Blue Catfish in an Impounded Bay of the Upper Mississippi River

Tad Locher, Jun Wang, Toby Holda, James Lamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adult bigheaded carps Hypophthalmichthys spp. have never been observed in the diets of native fishes in the Mississippi River Basin. In addition, blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus diet preference and foraging behavior have never been studied in the presence of non-native bigheaded carps in the Mississippi River system. We examined the gut contents of adult blue catfish (567–1020 mm, n = 65), captured from a Mississippi River backwater using trammel nets. All items in diets were separated and enumerated, and all fish-like diet items were genetically identified to confirm species-level ID. Bigheaded carp ages were determined by sectioning hard structures (pectoral spines, post-cleithra, and vertebrae). Adult silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (age 3–5, mean = 3.9 years, SE = 0.2; n = 21) had the highest frequency of occurrence (70%) and constituted the greatest percentage by number (58%) and weight (60%) in/of blue catfish diets. Gizzard shad Dorosoma cepedianum ranked second by all three measures (34%, 25%, and 26%). Finally, 50% to 100% of probable age-based sizes of silver carp exceeded gape measurements of blue catfish, suggesting scavenging was the dominant means of predation. More intensive sampling efforts are required to determine the system-wide importance of bigheaded carp in blue catfish diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number80
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Mississippi River
  • bigheaded carp
  • blue catfish
  • invasive species
  • predation
  • silver carp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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