Selective Predation by Reintroduced Juvenile Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in Ft. Loudoun Reservoir, Tennessee (USA)
Todd M. Amacker, and J. B. Alford.  2017.  Environmental Biology of Fishes, 100(10): 1301-1314.

Following water quality and minimum flow improvements to the impounded Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, juvenile lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) have been restocked annually since 2000. Our goal was to seasonally assess foraging mode of this recovering population in Ft. Loudoun Reservoir in the Upper Tennessee River. During 2014–15, individuals were captured using trot-lines in a 13-km reach that supports the greatest density of lake sturgeon. We used colonic flushing and gastric lavage techniques to obtain diet. We took systematic benthic sediment grabs along multiple transects throughout the reach and opportunistically deployed rock cages filled with hard substrates to assess potential prey that colonize hard surfaces. Foraging modes of lake sturgeon were determined by comparing relative abundances of invertebrate taxa in the gut contents (6581 invertebrates) of 28 fish to the relative abundances of the same invertebrate taxa collected from the resource base (1667 invertebrates). Proportional similarity, Levin’s niche breadth, and Manly’s index were used to assess the degree of prey selectivity. Lake sturgeon fed selectively on a narrow range of available prey consisting mostly of larval chironomids (93% composition by number during warm season, 96% during cool season), some genera of which they prey upon selectively, primarily Chironomus sp., but to a lesser extent Procladius, Ablabesmyia, Coelotanypus, and Cryptochironomus spp. Meanwhile, other abundant taxa in the resource base were avoided, such as Oligochaetes, Hexagenia mayflies, and the chironomid Glyptotendipes. Our results illustrate that assessing seasonally available prey from habitat utilized by lake sturgeon is important when investigating diet preference.