Donofrio, E., Simon, T., Neuswanger, J.R., and Grossman, G.D.
Environmental Biology of Fishes 101: 609-622
Publication year: 2018

Habitat selection is an important phenomenon that may greatly affect individual fitness. Using an artificial stream, we examined the relationship between the percentage of prey captured, reactive distance, dominance, and water velocity for juvenile Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) from the Chena River, Alaska, and tested the fitness-based microhabitat selection model of Grossman et al. (Ecol Freshw Fish 11:2– 10, 2002). Recent declines in the abundance of Chinook accentuate our need for habitat selection studies on this species. We conducted three experiments: two with single fish (1st N = 27, fish SL 58–84 mm, 2nd N = 14, fish SL 49–56 mm) and one with pairs of dominant and subordinate fish (N = 10 pairs, 64–96 mm, mean difference in SL = 7 mm). We placed individual or pairs of fish in an artificial flume and recorded reactive distance and the percent prey capture with individual dead brine shrimp (Artemia spp.) as prey. Prey were presented at 10 cm/s velocity intervals ranging from 10 to 60 cm/s; velocities found in the natural habitat. Mean reactive distance in single fish experiments (henceforth SFE) averaged 33 and 29 cm respectively, and was not related to velocity. We detected a negative, curvilinear relationship between velocity and percent prey capture. Holding velocities for juvenile Chinook were significantly lower than prey capture velocities. The Grossman et al. (Ecol Freshw Fish 11:2–10, 2002) model yielded an optimal focal-point velocity prediction of 35 cm/s for juvenile Chinook, however focal-point velocities occupied by juveniles in the Chena River averaged 12 cm/s. Predicted optimal velocities were present in the Chena River; hence, this discrepancy suggests that other factors such as distraction from drifting debris or predation risk influenced habitat selection. There were no differences in reactive distances or holding velocity/capture velocity relationships for dominant and subordinate fish; however, dominants captured significantly more prey than subordinates. Being subordinate resulted in a decrease of 61% in mean percent prey capture (the difference between what was captured by the fish alone versus the difference with a dominant), whereas the mean cost to fish with dominant rank was a 21% decline between the percentage captured alone versus that with a subordinate.

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