Variation in diet patterns of the invasive top predator Sander lucioperca (Linnaeus, 1758) across Portuguese basins.
The introduction of non-native species is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity, particularly in freshwater ecosystems. Pikeperch Sander lucioperca, is a recent invader to Portugal, primarily providing commercial and angling interest. The aim of this work was to study the diet of this top predator across Portuguese basins and to evaluate its potential impact on recipient ecosystems. In total, 256 pikeperch stomachs from seven basins were examined, of which 88 (n = 34%) were empty. Pikeperch diet was dominated by R. rutilus, M. salmoides and Diptera in northern populations, while A. alburnus, P. clarkii and Atyidae were important prey in more humid highlands. Variation in diet was most strongly linked to latitude and ontogeny, with both size classes showing signs of cannibalism. The population niche breadth remained low and was accompanied by higher individual diet specialization, particularly in northern populations. Pikeperch dietary patterns denoted an opportunistic ability to use locally abundant prey in each ecosystem, and was size dependent, with larger individuals becoming more piscivores, causing a higher impact in the lotic systems. This first perspective about the pikeperch diet presents a very broad view of the feeding traits of this non-native predator across Portugal, being very important to deepen our knowledge about the impact of these introduced piscivores.