Due to variability in biotic and abiotic conditions along a vertical gradient within aquatic systems, the vertical distribution of larval fish can profoundly affect their growth and survival. In large systems such as the Great Lakes, vertical distribution patterns also can influence dispersal and ultimately settlement events. The objective was to describe the diel vertical distribution of the larval fish community in the pelagic waters of Lake Michigan and determine which biotic and abiotic factors most strongly influence their vertical distribution. To determine vertical distribution, the upper 27. m of the water column was divided into six discrete depth bins. Larval fish sampling was conducted within each of these depth bins on seven occasions during both day and night. Temperature, light intensity, and prey density also were recorded at depths corresponding to larval fish sampling. Larval fish from five species were collected during the study: alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), bloater (Coregonus hoyi), burbot (Lota lota), deepwater sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsonii), and yellow perch (Perca flavecens). Among the five species, we observed three general patterns of depth distribution. Alewife and yellow perch were restricted to the upper strata, whereas the opposite trend was observed for deepwater sculpin. Bloater and burbot larvae were more evenly distributed throughout the upper 27. m, and their pattern of vertical distribution changed between diel periods. Our analysis suggests abiotic factors were more important than biotic factors in structuring the vertical distribution of larval fish in southwestern Lake Michigan, with temperature having the largest influence on distribution of larvae.
- Larval fish
- Vertical distribution
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science