Yellow perch Perca flavescens exhibit a consistent early life history across most lakes, with hatching in spring followed by a brief pelagic phase that ends with an ontogenetic shift to benthic habitat. This shift occurs with consistent timing and at consistent sizes in most freshwater systems. In Lake Michigan, however, the pelagic phase is prolonged and age-0 yellow perch undergo the transition to benthic habitat at variable sizes, the reasons for which are unknown. We investigated whether prey resources, diet preferences, and physical environment affected the habitat shift of pelagic, age-0 yellow perch. The shift to nearshore benthic habitat between 1998 and 2005 was strongly correlated with the occurrence of onshore wind events, a surrogate for transport by onshore currents. The timing of this habitat shift was not strongly related to prey resources. Abiotic factors structured the habitat shifts of age-0 yellow perch in Lake Michigan, a pattern atypical of freshwater systems but consistent with the patterns seen in marine systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science