Synergism between cruising cod and ambush sculpin predators on 0-group gadoids is modified by daylight cycle and presence of aggressive wolffish
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 2020, 526 . 10.1016/j.jembe.2020.151356
Shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) and large cod (300–400 g body weight) are important predators on newly settled 0-group cod (Gadus morhua) and saithe (Pollachius virens) in Porsangerfjorden in northern Norway. The Atlantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) used to be abundant but is now very rare in the fjord. Video recorded experiments showed that interactions between shorthorn sculpins, wolffish and large cod affected predation rates on small 0-group cod and saithe in tanks with a gravel, cobble and seaweed (Fucus serratus) substrate. We found that sculpins were unable to catch 0-group specimens when they were the only predatory species in the experimental tank and the lights were left on 24 h a day (to simulate the midnight sun), and that they did not even attempt to catch them. The addition of a large cod to the tank increased sculpin attack rates and predation success significantly. The “cod effect” was due to 0-group specimens avoiding attacks by escaping into the cobbles or vegetation, were they could be more easily reached by the sculpins. When tanks were supplemented with a wolffish in addition to the cod, both sculpin and cod predation success was lowered by approximately 50% in the 24-h light regime. When the experimental setup was changed to a day/night light cycle, however, the wolffish presence had no effect. Also, sculpins in tanks without cod and wolffish went from consuming zero to 29% of the 0-group specimens in the tank when the light regime went from 24-h light to day/night. Sculpins and cod were most effective predators on 0-group cod and saithe at dusk/night/dawn, and the presence of a cruising predator like cod increased sculpin predation success and probably vice versa. The experimental data indicate that rebuilding wolffish stocks in the fjord system may make the bottom substrate more protective for 0-group specimens of cod and saithe, by limiting the foraging volume of an effective bottom-dwelling 0-group predator like the sculpin. Further field and lab studies must be conducted before the reported findings optionally can be turned into a management advice.