Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Richard Wetzel


The first section of this dissertation describes the ichthyofaunal community of a mesohaline Chesapeake Bay April--November. Fish assemblages were sampled using two seine gears, a small seine that sampled 352 m 2 and a 914m haul-seine that sampled 144,473 m2. The small seine collected 32 finfish species. The larger gear captured 31 finfish species, including 17 that were not sampled by small gear. Sampled diversity was greater but density estimates were similar to those determined previously by other investigators using flume-net, drop-ring, and otter trawl techniques. Nocturnal abundance of larger fishes far exceeded daylight. Fish abundance and size distribution varied seasonally in both gears. The second section describes the littoral diet composition of striped bass (Morone saxatilis ), bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), and weakfish (Cynoscion regalis). These species were the most abundant piscivores sampled in the littoral zone. as in previous Chesapeake Bay diet studies the importance of pelagic prey increased with predator size, however, littoral diets evidenced greater dietary diversity and dependence on crustacean prey items. The third section consists of bioenergetic models that predict piscivore growth based on estimated nocturnal consumption and test energetic consequences of diel thermal refugia. Bluefish and weakfish were predicted to achieve better growth rates than those evidenced by field samples of aged fishes collected from across random Chesapeake habitats. Models predict that striped bass experience declining condition during warm water periods due to physiological stresses and poor prey acquisition. Theoretical diel relocation models illustrated how important species and age specific metabolic restrictions due to physical parameters are to fish health. Findings suggest that habitat specific physical dynamics may be as important as prey provision in determination of and spatial assessments of essential fish habitats.



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