Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Biological Sciences


Nancy Ann Auer


I assessed the influence of the Keweenaw Current and spring thermal bar on the distribution of larval fishes and large zooplankton in Lake Superior. In 1998 and 1999, samples were collected from inshore (0.2 – 3.0 km from shore) and offshore (5.0 – 9.0 km from shore) locations on three transects off the western coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. For larval fishes, density and size distribution patterns of lake herring (Coregonus artedi), rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), burbot (Lota lota), deepwater sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsoni), and spoonhead sculpin (Cottus ricei) suggest a seasonal inshore to offshore movement. For zooplankton, seasonal warming appeared to be the major factor that limited planktonic catches of the primarily benthic Mysisrelicta and Diporeia spp., while simultaneously stimulated growth and reproduction of the cladocerans Daphnia spp., Holopedium gibberum, and Bythotrephes cederstroemi. In contrast, calanoid copepods as a group were abundant throughout the entire sampling season. The greatest abundances of zooplankton were generally encountered offshore, even for the cladocerans, which apparently expanded from inshore to offshore locations with seasonal warming.

In 2000, sampling efforts focused on lake herring. Samples were collected from surface waters at 0.1 – 17.0 km from shore on two transects. Lake herring larvae were also reared in the laboratory from eggs in order to validate the use of otolith microstructure for aging. Increment deposition was not statistically different from a daily rate starting from 28 days after hatching, near the time of yolk-sac absorption, but larvae with lower growth rates could not be aged as accurately. In Lake Superior, lake herring tended to be slightly more abundant, larger, and older at inshore locations, but a dense patch of younger larvae was also encountered 7 – 13 km from shore. The distribution iiipatterns suggest that larvae were transported by prevailing currents into the study region, possibly from the more productive spawning regions in western Lake Superior. Growth rates were suppressed at offshore locations where temperatures were less than 8°C. These results indicate that lake herring larvae may be transported far distances from spawning concentrations by longshore currents, and water temperatures may largely control their growth.

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