Effects of turbidity on prey consumption by prairie stream fishes

Timothy H. Bonner, Gene R. Wilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Reduced suspended-sediment loads (i.e., turbidity) in many Midwestern prairie rivers have been hypothesized as contributing to the replacement of species that historically occupied highly turbid main-channel habitats by visually feeding species that are competitively superior in less-turbid waters. We examined the relationship between prey consumption and turbidity for six fish species from the Canadian River (New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas) and found experimental support for this hypothesis. Among species adapted to highly turbid main-channel habitats, we found that prey consumption by the peppered chub Macrhybopsis tetranema and flathead chub Platygobio gracilis was unaffected (P > 0.12) by elevated turbidity, whereas prey consumption by the Arkansas River shiner Notropis girardi was reduced (P < 0.01). Among species characteristic of less-turbid habitats, prey consumption by the emerald shiner N. atherinoides, red shiner Cyprinella lutrensis, and sand shiner N. stramineus was reduced (P < 0.01) by elevated turbidity. Compared with prey consumption at 0 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), prey consumption at 4,000 NTU decreased 21% among peppered chub, 26% among flathead chub, and 59% among Arkansas River shiners, which was less than that observed among emerald (73%), red (84%), and sand shiners (89%). In general, elevated turbidity had less effect on the prey consumption of species that are adapted to highly turbid habitats than on those characteristic of less-turbid habitats. The high suspended-sediment loads that historically were characteristic of many prairie streams may have excluded emerald, red, and sand shiners from main-channel habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1208
Number of pages6
JournalTransactions of the American Fisheries Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002


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