The origin and development of individual size variation in early pelagic stages of fish
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- Huss, M., Persson, L. & Byström, P. Oecologia (2007) 153: 57. doi:10.1007/s00442-007-0719-x
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Size variation among individuals born at the same time in a common environment (within cohorts) is a common phenomenon in natural populations. Still, the mechanisms behind the development of such variation and its consequences for population processes are far from clear. We experimentally investigated the development of early within-cohort size variation in larval perch (Perca fluviatilis). Specifically we tested the influence of initial variation, resulting from variation in egg strand size, and intraspecific density for the development of size variation. Variation in egg strand size translated into variation in initial larval size and time of hatching, which, in turn, had effects on growth and development. Perch from the smallest egg strands performed on average equally well independent of density, whereas larvae originating from larger egg strands performed less well under high densities. We related this difference in density dependence to size asymmetries in competitive abilities leading to higher growth rates of groups consisting of initially small individuals under high resource limitation. In contrast, within a single group of larvae, smaller individuals grew substantially slower under high densities whereas large individuals performed equally well independent of density. As a result, size variation among individuals within groups (i.e. originating from the same clutch) increased under high densities. This result may be explained by social interactions or differential timing of diet shifts and a depressed resource base for the initially smaller individuals. It is concluded that to fully appreciate the effects of density-dependent processes on individual size variation and size-dependent growth, consumer feedbacks on resources need to be considered.