Diving ducks staging on the lower Great Lakes have responded to the introduction and subsequent population increase of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) by consuming this readily available food. However, nutritional and contaminant-related implications of recent dietary shifts are hindered by the fact that few studies have documented foods consumed by diving ducks before zebra mussels invaded the Great Lakes in 1988. We examined diets of greater scaup (Aythya marila), lesser scaup (Aythya affinis), and long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis) collected from eastern Lake Ontario during autumn 1986 and 1987 to determine differences among the 3 species. Gastropods were the main food item of greater (92% aggregate dry mass) and lesser scaup (86%), but they consumed relatively small amounts (3% and 7%, respectively) of amphipods. In contrast, amphipods made up 66% of the diets of long-tailed ducks; gastropods were 28% of their diet. Amphipod populations have increased and native gastropods decreased in the presence of zebra mussels in the lower Great Lakes, such that zebra mussel invasion likely has had greater dietary implications for scaup than for long-tailed ducks. Dietary shifts from nonfilter-feeding gastropods to filter-feeding zebra mussels likely contributed to elevated contaminant burdens in lesser and greater scaup on the lower Great Lakes. We encourage further research into the diet-, nutrient-, and contaminant-related implications of zebra mussel induced ecological changes to the Great Lakes.
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