Diet of juvenile Alabama shad (Alosa alabamae) in two northern Gulf of Mexico drainages
Understanding food-web ecology is valuable to conservation by linking interactions of multiple species together and illustrating the functionality of trophic exchange. Alosa alabamae (Alabama Shad), an anadromous species, reproduces in northern Gulf of Mexico drainages from February through May, and for this study, the Pascagoula and Apalachicola rivers were chosen to sample juvenile Alabama Shad. The age-0 fish mature within these rivers and have the potential to impact the food web of the systems in which maturation occurs. The focus was to determine if diet changes as Alabama Shad mature, and to identify diet differences between drainages. Diets of Alabama Shad <50 mm standard length (SL) consisted primarily of a dark, almost black material labeled as unidentifiable organics, while larger Alabama Shad, >50 mm SL, fed almost exclusively on insects. Many groups of aquatic and terrestrial insects were found in the stomachs of this species. Alabama Shad diets also differed among drainages, with the Apalachicola River being dominated by terrestrial insects, and the Pascagoula River having both terrestrial and aquatic insects. Diet and trophic placement of Alabama Shad may allow managers to understand the importance of this fish within its natal rivers.