Processes regulating the survival of early life stages are difficult to decipher for fishes, especially those occupying multiple spatially segregated habitats in large complex systems. Although the processes occurring during the juvenile period are often thought to regulate recruitment of freshwater fishes, those occurring during prolonged pelagic larval phases may be more important to fishes inhabiting large dynamic systems, as is the case with marine larvae. To assess the importance of biotic and abiotic factors on growth and survival of a freshwater fish with a prolonged larval phase, we collected age-0 yellow perch Perca flavescens in Lake Michigan across multiple habitats and used otoliths to estimate daily ages, hatching distributions, and growth and mortality rates. Larval yellow perch hatched near shore over a 4-to 6-week period but were quickly transported offshore, where they experienced prolonged pelagic durations. Water temperature and wind events influenced growth rates, whereas water temperature, wind events, prey availability, hatching date, and growth rate affected survival across habitats.Mechanisms regulating growth and survival of yellow perch during prolonged pelagic durations (stage duration, prey, and wind events) are consistent with recruitment mechanisms typically ascribed to marine systems, suggesting that abiotic mechanisms interact with biological factors to govern recruitment of fishes in large freshwater ecosystems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science