More frequent storms due to climate change may impact estuarine species such as the mummichog (Fundulus hetereoclitus), an ecologically important salt marsh fish. This study investigated the effect of storm events and month on consumption of terrestrial insects by mummichogs in Hoffler Creek, Portsmouth, VA, as well as the effect of storms on consumption of major categories of benthic prey. Samples were taken monthly in the summers of 2017 and 2019. Additional paired samples were taken in June and July 2019, with the first collection during dry weather and the second during a subsequent storm. Month had a significant effect on the proportion of terrestrial insect prey in the diet in both years; consumption was highest in August, particularly in 2017 when the sample coincided with a storm event. However, storms increased consumption of terrestrial insects in only one of four paired dry weather-storm samples in 2019, indicating that temporal variation in insect abundance has a larger effect than increased availability that might occur when storms knock insects into the water. Storms had a significant effect on the proportion of different benthic prey in the diet in paired samples from 2019, but these effects were not consistent across months, sites, or in whether storms increased or decreased consumption. These patterns may be driven by mummichogs taking advantage of small-scale temporal or spatial variation in benthic prey. The ability to utilize locally abundant resources, including terrestrial insects, may help minimize the negative impacts of climate change on mummichogs.
Thompson, J. S., C. P. Cobbs, E. S. Dryden and H. D. Harwell. 2021. The effect of storm events on diet of adult mummichogs (Fundulus heteroclitus). Virginia Journal of Science 72 (1-2): 15 pp. https://doi.org/10.25778/184m-mg12