Date of Award
Master of Science
Since their introduction to the United States in the 1970s, the invasive silver carp (Hypothalmichthys molitrix) has migrated into the native waters of 16 states with populations in the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Illinois River systems expanding at exponential rates in the past decade. As this species advances towards Lake Michigan, the threat of their invasion into the Laurentian Great Lakes is becoming very real. Silver carp are opportunistic, capable of rapid and extensive dispersal. They have the potential to compete with native species for critical habitat and food, which are very important limiting resources in all freshwater systems. Understanding their diet and habitat selection could be helpful for predicting their expansion and impacts in systems they invade. In order to fully understand habitat selection, 77 silver carp were implanted with ultrasonic transmitters during Spring 2008 and Spring 2009 in Pools 26 (N=24) and 27 (N=53) of the Mississippi River. Fish were located monthly to assess macrohabitat use. To determine if phytoplankton availability was influencing habitat selection, environmental chlorophyll a (used as a surrogate for phytoplankton abundance) was quantified monthly at silver carp detection sites and at randomly generated points from all macrohabitats. 240 silver carp were sacrificed to analyze foregut chlorophyll a concentrations (Pool 26 N=141; Pool 27 N=99); chlorophyll a concentrations in the river at fish locations were measured. This allows us to determine utilization of available phytoplankton resources. Silver carp were detected mostly in channel border wing dike areas with island side channel also being a popular macrohabitat. Chlorophyll a concentrations in the river were higher in areas where carp were detected compared to random sites across all macrohabitat types (Ksa=1.28 p=0.080). There was no significant relationship between foregut chlorophyll a concentrations and what was available in the environment, suggesting silver carp are using resources similarly across all habitats. Given that this species accumulated high concentrations of phytoplankton in their guts even in areas of low phytoplankton concentrations, they may be able to successfully invade areas with scarce phytoplankton resources.
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