, Volume 64, Issue 7, pp 1069-1079
Date: 16 Mar 2010

Population and individual consequences of breeding resource availability in the European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus)

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Abstract

Resource availability may affect both individual fitness and population demography and the effects can interact. We used two experiments to test how breeding resource abundance and its spatial distribution, combined with female abundance, affected male reproductive behavior, population spawning rate, and embryo development and recruitment in the European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus), a small cyprinid fish that lays its eggs in living unionid mussels. In the first experiment, we found that at the population level the abundance of breeding resources (freshwater mussels) was more important for bitterling recruitment than resource spatial distribution (clumped or regular). In contrast at the individual level, (variability in reproductive success) the spatial distribution of resources was more important, but only when resource abundance was not limiting. Territorial males obtained almost exclusive access to fertilizations when resources were abundant and distributed regularly, but were unable to defend large clusters of resources (when rival abundance was always high) and abandoned territoriality. Surprisingly, territorial males remained aggressive and successfully defended their territories when resources were grouped into a single cluster, but at a low abundance. In the second experiment, more rapid embryo development and larger juvenile body size at the end of the growing season was detected at high resource abundance and low female abundance, indicating that early hatched juveniles survived better and hence investment in offspring production early in the season yields a higher fitness pay-offs. The abundance of females in spawning condition was the best overall predictor of the intensity of male reproductive behavior in both experiments.

Communicated by: C. St. Mary.