, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 48–56 | Cite as

Effects of resource level and habitat type on behavioral and morphological plasticity in Eurasian perch

  • Jens OlssonEmail author
  • Richard Svanbäck
  • Peter Eklöv
Population Ecology


Spatial and temporal heterogeneity in the environment is a common feature affecting many natural populations. For example, both the resource levels and optimal habitat choices of individuals likely change over time. One way for organisms to cope with environmental variation is to display adaptive plasticity in traits such as behavior and morphology. Since trait plasticity is hypothesized to be a prerequisite for character divergence, studies of mechanisms behind such plasticity are warranted. In this study, we looked at the interaction of two potentially important environmental variables on behavioral and morphological plasticity in Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis L.). More specifically, the plastic responses in activity and morphology of perch exposed to different resource levels and simulated habitat types were studied in an aquarium experiment. The resource level experienced had a large influence on plasticity in both activity and morphology. Behavioral adaptations have been thought to mediate morphological transitions, and we suggest that the morphological response to the resource level was mediated by differences in activity and growth rates. The habitat type also affected morphological plasticity but to a lesser extent, and there was no effect on activity from habitat type. Based on these results, we suggest that it is essential to include several environmental factors acting in concert when studying mechanisms behind trait plasticity. We also propose that variation in resource levels might play a key role in fostering trait plasticity in at least fish populations, while other environmental variables such as divergent habitat complexities and prey types might be less influential. Dynamics in resource levels and optimal habitat choices might thus be important factors influencing character divergence in natural populations.


Activity Growth rate Morphometric analyses Morphological variation Resource polymorphism 



We would like to thank Mike Webster, Anssi Laurila and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that helped improve the quality of this manuscript. We also thank Mario Quevedo, Jonathan Coosen, Celine Colson, Staffan Edholm and Ulf Westerlund for helping out in the laboratory. The work was funded by grants from Malméns Foundation and Stiftelsen Oskar och Lili Lamms Minne to Jens Olsson, Stiftelsen Konung Carl XVI Gustafs 50-årsfond to Richard Svanbäck, and The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning to Peter Eklöv.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Limnology/Department of Ecology and Evolution, Evolutionary Biology CentreUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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