The diet and trophic ecology of non-native Micropterus salmoides in two South African impoundments
Largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides is a highly successful predator that preys on fish and invertebrates. Highly popular with anglers, it is one of the most introduced and invasive fish globally, with strong potential to alter ecosystem structure and functioning. A better understanding of the trophic dynamics of M. salmoides populations is critical for effective management of its ecological impacts in their invasive range. This study investigated the diets and dietary ontogenetic shifts of M. salmoides in two South African dams along with its trophic positioning relative to other fish community members, through stomach content and stable isotope analyses. Micropterus salmoides was a top predator in both dams. In the Mankazana Dam, it depended predominately on insect prey, demonstrating a generalised feeding strategy, with shifts to include increasing proportions of fish prey with increasing size. Contrastingly, in the Wriggleswade Dam, M. salmoides displayed no ontogenetic shifts and preferred Gilchristella aestuaria, likely indicating a shift to a predominantly fish-based diet at smaller sizes, in the presence of small pelagic fish prey. Overall, M. salmoides diet was opportunistic, likely associated with prey morphology and behaviour (associated with refuge availability) and therefore directly linked to prey abundance and availability, which consequently dictated feeding strategy.
Keywords: dams, invasion, largemouth bass, ontogenetic shifts, predator, prey