Behavioral Ecology


, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 569-581

First online:

The disruption of dominance hierarchies by a non-native species: an individual-based analysis

  • S. BlanchetAffiliated withCIRSA & Québec-Océan, Département de Biologie, Pavillon Vachon, Université Laval
  • , G. LootAffiliated withLaboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, U.M.R 5174, C.N.R.S, Université Paul Sabatier
  • , L. BernatchezAffiliated withCIRSA & Québec-Océan, Département de Biologie, Pavillon Vachon, Université Laval
  • , J. J. DodsonAffiliated withCIRSA & Québec-Océan, Département de Biologie, Pavillon Vachon, Université Laval Email author 

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We studied the effects of the exotic rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) on the performance and the dominance hierarchy of native Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) at the group and individual level using laboratory and semi-natural experiments. At the group level, we compared the effects of interspecific and intraspecific competition (substitutive and additive design) on behavioural responses and growth of young-of-the-year Atlantic salmon. At the individual level, the same design was used to evaluate: (1) the temporal consistency of behavioural responses, dominance hierarchy and growth rate of Atlantic salmon; (2) the pattern of correlations between behaviours; and (3) the relationship between individual growth rate and behaviour. In the laboratory, group-level analyses revealed a weak but similar effect of rainbow trout and intraspecific competition on the behaviour and growth of Atlantic salmon. In contrast, individual-based analyses demonstrated that rainbow trout (but not intraspecific competition) strongly affected behavioural strategy, dominance hierarchy and growth trajectory of individual Atlantic salmon. Specifically, behaviours, dominance status and growth rate of salmon were temporally consistent in the intraspecific environment, while these patterns were disrupted when rainbow trout were present. Similarly, we found that rainbow trout strongly affected behavioural correlations and the relationships between individual growth rate and behaviour. The semi-natural experiments confirmed these results as interspecific competition affected relationships between individual growth rate of salmon, initial weight and activity index. Overall, individual-based analyses highlighted important mechanisms that were concealed at the group level, and that may be crucial to understand ecological and evolutionary consequences of exotic species. Moreover, these results demonstrated that competition with an exotic species disrupts the hierarchical relationship among native individuals and may therefore represent a potential for a shift in selective pressure.


Behavioural correlations Social hierarchy Competition Salmonids Phenotypic plasticity