Light effects on alewife-mysid interactions in Lake Ontario: A combined sensory physiology, behavioral, and spatial approach

Boscarino, Brent T., Lars G. Rudstam, Jill Tirabassi, John Janssen, and Ellis R. Loew

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(5), 2010, 2061-2072 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.5.2061

ABSTRACT: An understanding of the effect of light on predator-prey interactions in aquatic systems requires the integration of sensory physiology, behavioral ecology, and spatial distributions of predator and prey in the field. Here, we present such an integrative approach to a study on the interactions between the alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and the mysid shrimp, Mysis diluviana, (formerly M. relicta) in Lake Ontario at night, when it is unknown whether visual feeding is possible. Visual pigment analyses of alewife rod photoreceptors were used to derive an alewife-specific unit of brightness—the 'alelux' (wavelength of maximum absorbance, lmax = 505 nm)—which formed the basic unit of light intensity in alewife feeding-rate experiments and field applications. At light levels of 10-7 alelux (~ 10-4.1 lux) and greater in the laboratory, alewives engaged in visual search and strike behaviors and fed at rates that were significantly higher than those under completely dark conditions. Field observations from Lake Ontario showed that light levels at the upper edge of the mysid distribution were within the range of those required for visual feeding in the laboratory on a full moon night, but not on a new moon night. These increased light levels translated into feeding rates that were > 30 times higher on the full moon night, despite a larger degree of spatial separation of the two trophic levels. We hypothesize that observed increased water clarity in Lake Ontario in recent years has led to increased consumption of mysids by alewife at night and associated food-web changes.

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