Spatio-temporal, ontogenetic and interindividual variation of age-0 diets in a population of yellow perch

Charles R. Roswell, Steven A. Pothoven, Tomas O. Höök

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dietary niches of fishes have traditionally been evaluated at the population level, with diet pattern central tendencies compared spatio-temporally among habitats and populations. More recently, however, studies have emphasised the importance of within-population diet variation and niche partitioning. Several studies have examined diets of young yellow perch (Perca flavescens) at the population level and have described an ontogenetic transition from zooplankton to benthic prey during the first year of life. However, independent of ontogenetic diet shifts, intrapopulation variation of young yellow perch diets remains largely unexplored. We quantified patterns of diet composition in age-0 yellow perch collected from Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, USA during July-October, 2009 and 2010. We observed substantial variation in diet composition among individuals across and within sites, but found relatively weak evidence indicating an ontogenetic diet shift. Zooplankton were the dominant prey for age-0 yellow perch on most occasions, and individual diets were composed primarily of either zooplankton (e.g. Daphnia spp., Calanoida) or benthic (i.e. Chironomidae larvae, Chydoridae) prey. These patterns were not simply attributable to differences in prey availability and ontogenetic diet shifts, because a) not only diet composition, but also prey selectivity (Chesson's α) varied among sites and b) individual and spatial diet differences were evident independent of ontogeny. Within-cohort differences in diet composition may be an important, but often overlooked, phenomenon with implications for cumulative trophic interactions and intracohort growth and survival among young fish. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-493
Number of pages15
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Diet selection
  • Niche
  • Ontogenetic shift
  • Perch
  • Specialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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