Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis Mitchill), an important commercial species in the Laurentian Great Lakes, have experienced decreased growth and condition in regions of the upper Great Lakes over the past 20 years. Increases in lake whitefish density and decreases in the density of Diporeia spp., an energy rich and historically important part of the lake whitefish diet, have been implicated in the recent declines in lake whitefish growth and condition. The goal of this study was to describe lake whitefish fecundity, egg lipid content, and total ovary lipid content in selected regions of Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior in 1986–87 and 2003–05, two time periods with different lake whitefish and Diporeia densities. Under conditions of high lake whitefish density and low Diporeia density, female lake whitefish in the upper Laurentian Great Lakes generally produced fewer eggs. Egg lipid content was higher in 2003–05 than in 1986–87 at all sites, regardless of changes in lake whitefish or Diporeia densities. Total ovary lipid content and lake whitefish abundance were inversely related, while there was no significant relationship between total ovary lipid content and Diporeia density. The amount of energy that lake whitefish invested in egg production was more closely associated with lake whitefish abundance than with Diporeia density. This study provides evidence that recent changes in production dynamics of Great Lakes lake whitefish have not been driven solely by declines in Diporeia but have been significantly influenced by lake whitefish abundance.
Journal of Great Lakes Research
Vol. 33 • No. 4
Vol. 33 • No. 4