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Data Recovery from Old Filing Cabinets: Seasonal Diets of the Most Common Demersal Fishes in the Miramichi River Estuary (Atlantic Canada), 1991–1993

John Mark Hanson1 and Simon C. Courtenay1,2,*

1Science Branch, Gulf Fisheries Centre, Fisheries and Ocean Canada, PO Box 5030, Moncton, NB E1C 9B6, Canada. 2Current address - School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability and Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 27, Issue 3 (2020): 401–433

A recent data-recovery exercise uncovered a large amount of stomach-content data (n = 8209) from mainly demersal fishes collected seasonally in the Miramichi River Estuary, southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (sGSL), 1991–1993. Of the demersal species captured, all but Pleuronectes putnami (Smooth Flounder) represent transient species. Within the estuary, stomach samples were collected from all species (except Osmerus mordax [Rainbow Smelt]) captured by trawling and in commercial trap nets. Rainbow Smelt stomachs were collected during trawl surveys (May through October) in nearby coastal waters. The summer diet analyses were limited to Smooth Flounder (small bivalve specialist), Pseudopleuronectes americanus (Winter Flounder), and Rainbow Smelt. Many juvenile Urophycis tenuis (White Hake) entered the estuary during late September to feed and then departed during November. Numerous Gadus macrocephalus (Greenland Cod), Myoxocephalus scorpius (Shorthorn Sculpin), Winter Flounder, juvenile Clupea harengus (Atlantic Herring), Microgadus tomcod (Atlantic Tomcod), Rainbow Smelt, Morone saxatilis (Striped Bass), and Zoarces americanus (Ocean Pout) entered the estuary during autumn to overwinter, spawn, and feed. Winter Flounder, Smooth Flounder, Striped Bass, and Atlantic Herring fasted during winter. Crangon septemspinosa (Seven-spined Bay Shrimp) was the most important invertebrate prey (up to 95% of total prey mass) of all transient species. Large specimens of Greenland Cod, Shorthorn Sculpin, Ocean Pout, and White Hake also ate substantial numbers of small Rainbow Smelt, Atlantic Herring, Striped Bass, and Atlantic Tomcod. When combined with published data for the adjacent coastal zone, C. septemspinosa represents a nexus in 2 food webs and fits the description of a keystone species for the sGSL coastal zone and adjacent estuaries.

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