, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 354-361

Phenotype-specific feeding behaviour of two arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus morphs

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The feeding performance of two morphs of a trophically polymorphic fish, the arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus, feeding on zooplankton, was studied in the laboratory. Limnetic morphs, with a fusiform body, terminal mouth, short pectoral fins, and relatively long and dense gill rakers, fed at significantly higher rates on Daphnia and Cyclops than did benthic morphs. The benthic morphs were characterized by a chunky body form, subterminal mouth, long pectoral fins, and relatively short and spaced-out gill rakers. The limnetic morphs attacked the prey at significantly higher rates and were more successful in capture. Benthic morphs were more reluctant to start feeding on zooplankton and reaction time was longer than in limnetic morphs. In the absence as well as presence of zooplankton food, the position of the two morphs in the aquaria differed markedly. The results agree with dietary differences found in field-collected fish. The limnetic morphs consume zooplankton, whereas benthic morphs specialize on Lymnaea gastropods. The results suggest that benthic morphs are phenotypically inferior at using the pelagic food niche. This implies that the current role of competitive or predatory interactions in segregating the morphs may be minor.