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Fine-scale taxonomic and temporal variability in the energy density of invertebrate prey for juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Jacob Weil*, Will Duguid, Francis Juanes

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Variation in the energy content of prey can drive the diet choice, growth and ultimate survival of consumers. In Pacific salmon species, obtaining sufficient energy for rapid growth during early marine residence is hypothesized to reduce the risk of size-selective mortality. In order to determine the energetic benefit of feeding choices for individuals, accurate estimates of energy density (ED) across prey groups are required. Frequently, a single species is assumed to be representative of a larger taxonomic group or related species. Further, single-point estimates are often assumed as representative of a group across seasons, despite temporal variability. To test the validity of these practices, we sampled zooplankton prey of juvenile Chinook salmon to investigate fine-scale taxonomic and temporal differences in ED. Using a recently developed model to estimate the ED of organisms using percent ash-free dry weight, we compared energy content of several groups that are typically grouped together in growth studies. Decapod megalopae were more energy rich than zoeae and showed family level variability in ED. Amphipods showed significant species-level variability in ED. Temporal differences were observed, but patterns were not consistent among groups. Bioenergetic model simulations showed that growth rate of juvenile Chinook salmon, was almost identical when prey ED values were calculated on a fine- or taxon-averaged coarse-scale. However, single-species representative calculations of prey ED yielded highly variable output in growth depending on the representative species used. These results suggest that the latter approach may yield significantly biased results.