Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Dr. Richard Heard

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Dr. Robin Overstreet

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Dr. Jeffery Lotz

Committee Member 3 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Abstract

This study provides insight into the life history of the relatively unknown intertidal marsh fish Fundulus pulvereus (Everman), the bayou killifish. Monthly sampling for F. pulvereus took place in three different Mississippi tidal marshes over a period of 17 months (n=445). Observations on the diet, parasite fauna, and fecundity of the bayou killifish were documented on all specimens collected. Percent Occurrence and Percent Number coupled along with multivariate analyses indicated seasonal, site, and ontogenetic shifts in the diet of F. pulvereus. Dominant prey items consumed by F. pulvereus were copepods, mites, chironomids, and terrestrial and aquatic insects. The bayou killifish is an opportunistic omnivore that utilizes marsh floodplains to forage for prey, and is a link in the trophic interactions taking place within estuaries. Parasitological observations resulted in the documenting of fourteen species; all but two of which were not previously reported from F. pulvereus. The presence of trophically-transmitted parasites indirectly indicates consumption of prey items not observed during the examination of stomach contents within bayou killifish (e.g., Cyrenoida floridana); as well as, the role of this marsh fish as trophic intermediate host for piscivorous predators such as alligators, herons and raccoons. Analysis using the Gonadosomatic Index indicated a spawning season that began in February and extended through August. The information provided here should give a greater understanding of the function of fundulids within the northern Gulf of Mexico tidal marsh systems and serves as a baseline for future studies.

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