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Cranial morphological scaling and relative prey size limitations for a native predator in an invaded system

Gilbert, ElizaI., Durst, ScottL., James, AngelaP., Davis, JasonE., Sinclair, ThomasB., Franssen, NathanR.
Environmental biology of fishes 2018 v.101 no.6 pp. 1067-1076
Cyprinella lutrensis, Ictalurus punctatus, Ptychocheilus lucius, allometry, fish, head, ontogeny, piscivores, predation, predator-prey relationships, predators, prey species, watersheds, Colorado River
Over evolutionary time, predator-prey interactions have shaped and constrained functional and behavioral traits of piscivorous fishes. The endangered Colorado Pikeminnow Ptychocheilus lucius, a large endemic piscivore of the Colorado River Basin, encounters a substantially altered prey base that differs in behaviors and morphologies compared to the historical suite of native prey. To assess physical limitations of Colorado Pikeminnow predation, we conducted a feeding experiment with two species of nonnative prey (spined and despined Channel Catfish Ictalurus punctatus and Red Shiner Cyprinella lutrensis) and quantified scaling of cranial morphology in this predator. In our predation experiments, Colorado Pikeminnow (215–312 mm total length) consumed both spined and despined Channel Catfish as well as Red Shiner but only consumed prey less than 20% of the predator’s total length. Previous feeding trials using smaller Colorado Pikeminnow, with native and nonnative prey species, indicated they consumed prey up to 35% of their total length, suggesting relative prey size limits may decrease as this predator grows. Morphological measurements also suggested relative prey size suitability may decrease as Colorado Pikeminnow become larger, with head depth and width demonstrating isometric scaling at small sizes and shifting to negative allometry as fish get larger. Together, these data suggest an ontogenetic shift in the head morphology of Colorado Pikeminnow may decrease the relative size of prey available to these predators. In severely altered systems, understanding trophic characteristics that limit overall predator resource availability will be critical for conservation of piscivorous fishes.