, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 99-109

Condition, Growth, and Reproductive Styles of Fishes Exposed to Different Environmental Regimes in a Prairie Drainage

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To investigate effects of environmental variability on fish populations, we compared three species from two different stream segments that differed in their magnitudes of environmental fluctuations. Fish from the upper and lower basin of an Oklahoma prairie stream were sampled bi-weekly from 19 April to 12 October 1997. Along with condition factors of Campostoma anomalum (adults and juveniles), Etheostoma spectabile, and Notropis boops, growth rates of juvenile C. anomalum, and gonadal somatic indices (GSI) from adult C. anomalum were calculated. Individuals occupying the upper basin experienced the greatest environmental fluctuations, but also had condition factors that were similar or higher than conspecifics in the more stable lower basin for each species. Changes in length-frequency distributions suggested the existence of 2–3 cohorts and relatively rapid growth in the upper basin and a single slower-growing cohort in the lower basin. Additionally, reproductive styles, measured in terms of GSI and appearance of juveniles, varied among the two sites, suggesting that reproductive plasticity over small scales may result from the different environmental regimes of each stream segment. Overall results demonstrate that although large fluctuations in the environment may produce conditions that appear to be detrimental to an individual, in actuality, they may not be. In fact, areas with the largest environmental fluctuations produced robust individuals, and thus may offer some unseen benefit that counterbalances or outweighs the costs associated with a variable environment. Additionally, there is evidence that at least some resident taxa have sufficient life history plasticity to exploit these opportunities wherever or whenever they may arise.