Selective predation by four darter (Percidae) species on larval chironomids (Diptera) from a Mississippi stream

John B. Alford
David C. Beckett, University of Southern Mississippi


We determined seasonal foraging modes of four sympatric darter species, Etheostoma lynceum, E. stigmaeum, E. swaini and Percina nigrofasciata, from Beaverdam Creek, Mississippi (USA) at two scales of taxonomic resolution: (1) chironomid prey identified to family and (2) chironomid prey identified to genus/species. When chironomids were identified to family, high proportional similarity (PS) and low niche breadth (NB) values suggested the darters fed opportunistically on a relatively small number of available prey taxa. In contrast, when chironomids were identified to genus/species, concordant low PS and NB values suggested the darters fed like classic specialists, selecting a small number of prey taxa relative to prey availability in the resource base. The darters selected just one to four chironomid taxa from 52 available taxa across seasons. Our study shows that the scale of taxonomic resolution used to identify darter prey may influence the characterization of darter foraging modes.