Documentation of freshwater mussels (Unionidae) in the diet of round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) within the French Creek watershed, Pennsylvania.
The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) was discovered in 2013 in the French Creek (Allegheny River Drainage) watershed and is the first documented invasion outside of the Lake Erie basin in Pennsylvania. The round goby throughout the Laurentian Great Lakes is known to eat dressenid mussels (Dreissenidae), but consumption of either dressenids or native mussels (Unionidae) in tributaries to Lake Erie is minimal based on low populations of any bivalves. The French Creek watershed, on the other hand, harbors 29 species of native freshwater mussels as well as introduced fingernail clams (Sphaeriidae; Corbicula fluminea). The objectives of this study were to document the diet of round gobies in the French Creek watershed to determine whether consumption of native freshwater mussels was occurring. Round gobies were collected in the summer months (May-Sept.) of 2016 via kick seine in four locations, dissected, and their stomach contents identified to lowest possible taxa. We separated the gobies into categories based on length classes, in order to determine if diet changed with increased size and age. Unionid mussels were consumed by all length classes, particularly in length class one (30-44 mm), but diet shifted to a dominance of sphaeriids in length class four (≥75 mm). Round gobies also consumed benthic aquatic insects, a large percentage of which were chironomids (greater than 24% in all size classes). This is the first documentation of unionid consumption by the round goby in Pennsylvania that poses possible threats to native mussels in the French Creek watershed.