Experimental analysis of intra- and interspecific competitive interactions between cutthroat trout and sculpins in small streams Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9880vt042

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  • In the Pacific Northwest ecoregion of North America, sculpins represent a major constituent of freshwater assemblages in coastal rivers. Based on their prevalence and abundance, sculpins are likely important ecologically, yet little is known of their interactions with co-occurring species, such as widely studied salmon and trout (salmonines). In this study, I evaluated inter- and intraspecific interactions involving cottids (Cottus sp.) and coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii). I used a response surface experimental design to independently evaluate effects of cutthroat trout and sculpin biomass on growth and behavior. There was evidence of both intra- and interspecific interactions between cutthroat trout and sculpins, but the interactions were asymmetrical with biomass of cutthroat trout driving both intra- and interspecific interactions, whereas sculpins had little influence overall. Cutthroat trout biomass was positively related to conspecific aggressive interactions and negatively related to growth. Sculpin exhibited increased use of cover during the day in response to greater biomass of cutthroat trout, but not sculpin biomass. Nocturnal use of cover by sculpins was unaffected by biomass of either species. This experiment provides insights into the species interactions and the mechanisms that may allow sculpins and salmonines to coexist in nature. As cutthroat trout appear to be superior competitors, coexistence between sculpins and cutthroat trout may depend on some form of refuge, either in the form of in-stream cover or crypsis coupled with diel resource segregation. Cutthroat trout are usually active during the day, indicating that nocturnal foraging by sculpins may in part represent a behavior that minimizes interspecific competition with cutthroat trout.
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