Subtle top-down control of a freshwater meiofaunal assemblage by juvenile fish

Gerard Dineen, Anne Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Top-down control of prey assemblages by fish predators has been clearly demonstrated in lakes (for zooplankton prey) and rivers (for macroinvertebrate prey). Fish predation can have a significant impact on the body size of prey assemblages; often large-bodied prey are reduced in abundance, and indirect facilitation of small-bodied prey occurs potentially initiating a trophic cascade.

2. Benthic communities in aquatic ecosystems also include a numerous and functionally important meiofaunal-sized component, but in freshwaters the impact of fish predation on meiofaunal assemblages is unknown. We used a laboratory microcosm study to explore the impact of juvenile fish predation on the abundance and size structure of a riverine meiofaunal assemblage.

3. The presence of fish in our microcosms had no significant effect on overall meiofaunal (temporary and permanent) abundance. However, for the Copepoda, we found the first evidence of top-down control of freshwater meiofaunal assemblages; in microcosms with juvenile fish, the abundance of large-bodied Copepoda was significantly reduced, whereas small-bodied Copepoda were significantly more abundant suggesting indirect facilitation.

4. We conclude that predation by juvenile fish can alter the structure of freshwater meiofaunal assemblages, although we do not yet know whether these relatively subtle changes are overwhelmed by large-scale events such as flow disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1818-1830
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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