Dietary ontogeny and niche shift to piscivory in lacustrine brown trout Salmo trutta revealed by stomach content and stable isotope analyses


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The feeding ecology and ontogeny of a large size range of brown trout Salmo trutta in Lake Fyresvatnet, southern Norway, were examined by stomach content and stable isotope analyses. According to the stomach contents, the S. trutta changed their diet at c. 30 cm total length (LT). The smaller size classes fed on benthic invertebrates and surface insects, whereas larger S. trutta (>30 cm) fed mainly on whitefish Coregonus lavaretus. A similar, but more gradual shift to piscivory in the size range 25–30 cm was found when using the stable isotope mixing model SIAR to reveal dietary ontogeny. The δ13C isotopic signature confirmed that S. trutta independent of size predominantly relied upon benthic energy sources, suggesting that the littoral zone was the primary foraging habitat for both invertebrate and piscivorous feeders. The δ15N values and trophic position increased with predator length, ranging from an average of 3·60 for small-sized S. trutta (<15 cm) to 4·15 for large-sized fish (>35 cm). The S. trutta exhibited a relatively slow growth rate during the predominant invertebrate feeding stages up to 7 years of age and 28 cm LT, whereas fish above this size and age displayed a rapid growth rate of 9–11 cm year−1, demonstrating the profitability of piscivorous feeding.