, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 757–763 | Cite as

Predator-prey interactions in size-structured fish communities: implications of prey growth

  • Mark H. Olson
Community Ecology


Predator-prey interactions among size-structured populations may be strongly influenced by factors which affect growth rates of prey. I examined the importance of prey growth in the interaction between large-mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and their prey, bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), by analyzing diets and growth rates of bass in a set of seven lakes in south-central Wisconsin. Sizes of bluegill consumed by bass changed dramatically across a gradient of bluegill growth, which resulted in differing patterns of bass growth. In lakes with slow bluegill growth, small bass fed on the youngest bluegill cohort, but large bass were capable of feeding on several age classes. Consequently, bass growth rates were strongly size-dependent; small bass ate small prey and had low growth, but growth rates increased substantially with size as bass ate progressively larger prey. When bluegill had high growth rates, they quickly reached a size refuge from predation and bass of all sizes were restricted to feeding on the youngest/smallest prey. In these lakes, bass growth rates were more uniform across bass sizes. Because growth rates influence population size-distributions, variation in bluegill growth can have strong effects on the structure of bass populations. These effects could potentially feed back to further influence the interaction between predator and prey.

Key words

Predation Vulnerability Growth Prey size Centrarchids 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark H. Olson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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