The release and regulation of rotifers: examining the predatory effects of invasive juvenile common and bighead carp.
Ecosystem level effects of common (Cyprinus carpio) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) have generally focused on adult life stages. The objective of our mesocosm study was to investigate and contrast the roles of juvenile common and bighead carp in structuring planktonic invertebrate assemblages, with focus on rotifers. We examined whether predation by juvenile carp was indiscriminate or size-selective with respect to prey size. Furthermore, we examined how changes to large and small prey influenced the potential for compensatory increases of some taxa within prey assemblages. Both species of juvenile carp reduced large zooplankton taxa. However, rotifer responses were variable depending on the taxon and predator combination. Juvenile common carp enhanced abundance for Polyartha and Squatinella, but most taxa were unaffected. Juvenile bighead carp had a more varied effect on rotifer abundance, having no effect on most, reducing Keratella and enhancing Anuraeopsis. We also estimated net filtration volume of the zooplankton community for each of the treatments and found partial compensation in net filtration because of the increased abundance of a few rotifer taxa, but this reduction did not match the depletion of macrozooplankton. Rotifers that benefitted from the presence of fish predators likely responded positively because of reduced predation by mesopredators, because of their short generation times, and/or from reduced competition.