Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 203–212 | Cite as

Relationships between body size and trophic position of consumers in temperate freshwater lakes

  • A. D. Persaud
  • P. J. Dillon
  • L. A. Molot
  • K. E. Hargan
Research Article


Animal body size is a driving force behind trophic interactions within biological communities, yet few studies have explored relationships between body size and trophic position (based on δ15N) at a broad-scale in freshwater lakes. Therefore, our goals were to (1) determine whether body size is a good predictor of trophic position for multiple pelagic zooplankton taxa and fish communities, and (2) examine how body size-trophic position relationships at the community level compare to species level for fish. Zooplankton and fish were collected from 12 and 7 lakes, respectively, located in the Kawarthas, southern Ontario, Canada. The results indicated that for zooplankton, significant positive but different relationships were found between body size and trophic position for cladocerans, in general, and Daphnia, but not Holopedium. For fish, at the lake community level six out of seven relationships were positive and significant, but again, different among lakes. In contrast, at the species level only three of eight species-specific relationships were significant. Furthermore, for two widespread species, Perca flavescens and Micropterus dolomieu, significant differences were found between community- and lake-specific species relationships. Our community-level models and most species-level models provide evidence that trophic interactions in freshwater lakes are size-based. These results demonstrate that general species models should be applied with caution when using body size to predict trophic position. Additionally, the predictive power of some relationships found here is questionable since, albeit significant, their strengths are generally low. Together, our results suggest that body size may have limited use in predicting trophic position of some biota in temperate freshwater lakes.


Body size Trophic position Stable isotopes Zooplankton Fish 



We thank the staff of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in Peterborough, Minden and Bancroft for collecting the fish samples. Esther Hails, Rabeya Sultana and Christiane Guay assisted in the collection of chemistry data and all benthic and zooplankton samples in the field. Michael Isaacs at the Worsfold Water Quality Center, Trent University, assisted with stable isotope analyses. This project was supported by an Ontario Ministry of the Environment Best In Science (BIS) grant awarded to ADP and PJD.


  1. Adrian R, Schneider-Olt B (1999) Top–down effects of crustacean zooplankton on pelagic microorganisms in a mesotrophic lake. J Plankton Res 21:2175–2190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akin S, Winemiller KO (2008) Body size and trophic position in a temperate estuarine food web. Acta Oecologia 33:144–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arvola L, Salonen K (2001) Plankton community of a polyhumic lake with and without Daphnia longispina (Cladocera). Hydrobiol 445:141–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azuma M (1992) Ecological release in feeding behaviour: the case of bluegills in Japan. Hydrobiol 243:269–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bamstedt U, Gifford DJ, Irigoien X, Atkinson A, Roman M (2000) Feeding. In: Harris R, Wiebe P, Lenz J, Skjoldal H-R, Huntley M (eds) ICES zooplankton methodology manual. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 297–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Branstrator DK, Cabana G, Mazumder A, Rasmussen JB (2000) Measuring life-history omnivory in the opossum shrimp, Mysis relicta, with stable nitrogen isotopes. Limnol Oceanogr 45:463–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burns CW (1968) The relationship between body size of filter feeding Cladocera and the maximum size of particle ingested. Limnol Oceanogr 14:392–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen JE, Pimm SL, Yodzis P, Saldana J (1993) Body size of animal predators and animal prey in foodwebs. J Animal Ecol 62:67–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cyr H, Curtis JM (1999) Zooplankton community size structure and taxonomic composition affects size-selective grazing in natural communities. Oecologia 118:306–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. David SM, Somers KM, Reid RA, Hall RJ, Girard RE (1998) Sampling protocols for the rapid bioassessment of streams and lakes using benthic macroinvertebrates. Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy, Data reportGoogle Scholar
  11. DeNiro MJ, Epstein S (1981) Influence of diet on the distribution of nitrogen isotopes in animals. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 12:133–149Google Scholar
  12. Elton C (1927) Animal ecology. Sidgewick and Jackson Publishing, UKGoogle Scholar
  13. France R, Chandler M, Peters R (1998) Mapping trophic continua of benthic foodwebs: body size-δ15N relationships. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 174:301–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fry B, Mumford PL, Tam F, Fox DD, Warren GL, Haven KE, Steinman AD (1999) Trophic position and individual feeding histories of fish from Lake Okeechobee Florida. Can J Fish Sci 56:590–600Google Scholar
  15. Gannes LZ, O’Brien DM, del Rio CM (1997) Stable isotopes in animal ecology: assumptions, caveats and a call for more laboratory experiments. Ecology 78:1271–1276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Godinho FN, Ferreira MT, Cortes RV (1997) The environmental basis of diet variation in pumpkinseed sunfish, Lepomis gibbosus, and largemouth bass, Micropterus salmonoides, along an Iberian river basin. Environ Biol Fish 50:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gu B (2009) Variations and controls of nitrogen stable isotopes in particulate organic matter of lakes. Oecologia 160:421–431PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobson KA, Welch HE (1992) Determination of trophic relationships within a high Arctic marine food web using δ13C and δ15N analysis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 84:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jennings S, Pinnegar JK, Polunin NVC, Boon TW (2001) Weak cross-species relationships between body size and trophic level belie powerful size-based trophic structuring in fish communities. J Animal Ecol 70:934–944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jennings S, Pinnegar JK, Polunin NVC, Warr KJ (2002) Linking size-based and trophic analyses of benthic community structure. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 226:77–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jennings S, Maxwell TAD, Schratzberger M, Milligan SP (2008) Body-size dependent temporal variations in nitrogen stable isotope ratios in food webs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 370:199–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson JH, Dropkin DS (1993) Diel variation in diet composition of a riverine fish community. Hydrobiol 271:149–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson MW, Hesslein RH, Dick TA (2004) Host length, age, diet, parasites and stable isotopes as predictors of yellow perch (Perca flavescens Mitchill), trophic status in nutrient poor Canadian Shield lakes. Environ Biol Fish 71:379–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Keast A, Webb D (1966) Mouth and body form relative to feeding ecology in the fish fauna of a small lake, Lake Opinicon, Ontario. J Fish Res Board Can 23:1845–1867CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Keast A, Welsh L (1968) Daily feeding periodicities, food uptake rates, and dietary changes with hour of day in some lake fishes. J Fish Res Board Can 25:1133–1144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kline TC, Wilson WJ, Goering JJ (1998) Natural isotope indicators of fish migration at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1494–1502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Matthews B, Mazumder A (2007) Distinguishing trophic variation from seasonal and size-based isotopic (delta N-15) variation of zooplankton. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 64:74–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Matthews B, Mazumder A (2008) Detecting trophic-level variation in consumer assemblages. Freshw Biol 53:1942–1953CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McCutchan JH, Lewis WM, Kendall C, McGrath CC (2003) Variation in trophic shift for stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. Oikos 102:378–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Michaletz PH (2006) Prey resource use by bluegill and channel catfish in small impoundments. Fish Manag Ecol 13:347–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Minagawa M, Wada E (1984) Stepwise enrichment of 15N along food chains: further evidence and the relation between δ15N and animal age. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 48:1135–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mittlebach GG, Osenberg CW, Wainwright PC (1992) Variation in resource abundance affects diet and feeding morphology in the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus). Oecologia 90:8–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. O’Keefe T, Brewer MC, Dodson SI (1998) Swimming behaviour of Daphnia: its role in determining predation risk. J Plankton Res 20:973–984CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Olson NW, Paukert CP, Willis DW, Klammer JA (2003) Prey selection and diets of bluegill Lepomis macrochirus with differing population characteristics in two Nebraska natural lakes. Fish Manag Ecol 10:31–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Overman NC, Parrish DL (2001) Stable isotope composition of walleye: 15N accumulation with age and area-specific differences in δ13C. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 58:1253–1260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Persaud AD, Dillon PJ (2010) Ontogenetic differences in Chaoborus isotopic signatures and crop contents. J Plankton Res 32:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Peters RH (1983) The ecological implications of body size. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  38. Post DM (2002) Using stable isotopes to estimate trophic position: models, methods and assumptions. Ecology 83:703–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roell MJ, Orth DJ (1993) Trophic basis for production of stream-dwelling smallmouth bass, rock bass and flathead catfish in relation to invertebrate bait harvest. T Am Fish Soc 122:46–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sandstrom S, Rawson M, Lester N (2008) Manual for Broad-scale Fish Community Monitoring; using large mesh gillnets and small mesh gillnets. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  41. Scharf FS, Juanes F, Rountree RA (2000) Predator size-prey size relationships of marine fish predators: interspecific variation and effects ontogeny and body size on trophic-niche breadth. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 208:229–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schindler DE, Hodgson JR, Kitchell JF (1997) Density-dependent changes in individual foraging specialization of largemouth bass. Oecologia 110:592–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Uchii K, Okuda N, Yonekura R, Karube Z, Matsui K, Kawabata Z (2007) Trophic polymorphism in bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrohirus) introduced into Lake Biwa: evidence from stable isotope analysis. Limnology 8:59–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vander Zanden MJ, Fetzer WM (2007) Global patterns of aquatic food chain length. Oikos 116:1378–1388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vander Zanden MJ, Shuter BJ, Lester N, Rasmussen JB (2000) Within- and among-population variation in the trophic of a pelagic predator, lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 57:725–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vanderklift MA, Ponsard S (2003) Sources of variation in consumer-diet δ15N enrichment: a meta-analysis. Oecologia 136:169–182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ventura M, Catalan J (2008) Incorporating life histories and diet quality in stable isotope interpretations of crustacean zooplankton. Freshw Biol 53:1453–1469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wainwright PC, Osenberg CW, Mittelbach GG (1991) Trophic polymorphism in the pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus Linnaeus): effects of environment on ontogeny. Funct Ecol 5:40–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. D. Persaud
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. J. Dillon
    • 1
  • L. A. Molot
    • 2
  • K. E. Hargan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations