, Volume 161, Issue 4, pp 837–847 | Cite as

Coexistence of behavioural types in an aquatic top predator: a response to resource limitation?

  • Alexander Kobler
  • Thomas Klefoth
  • Thomas Mehner
  • Robert Arlinghaus
Behavioral Ecology - Original Paper


Intra-population variation in behaviour unrelated to sex, size or age exists in a variety of species. The mechanisms behind behavioural diversification have only been partly understood, but density-dependent resource availability may play a crucial role. To explore the potential coexistence of different behavioural types within a natural fish population, we conducted a radio telemetry study, measuring habitat use and swimming activity patterns of pike (Esox lucius), a sit-and-wait predatory fish. Three behavioural types co-occurred in the study lake. While two types of fish only selected vegetated littoral habitats, the third type opportunistically used all habitats and increased its pelagic occurrence in response to decreasing resource biomasses. There were no differences in size, age or lifetime growth between the three behavioural types. However, habitat-opportunistic pike were substantially more active than the other two behavioural types, which is energetically costly. The identical growth rates exhibited by all behavioural types indicate that these higher activity costs of opportunistic behaviour were compensated for by increased prey consumption in the less favourable pelagic habitat resulting in approximately equal fitness of all pike groups. We conclude that behavioural diversification in habitat use and activity reduces intraspecific competition in preferred littoral habitats. This may facilitate the emergence of an ideal free distribution of pike along resource gradients.


Behavioural diversification Esox lucius Foraging strategy Habitat specialization Ideal free distribution 



We thank Alexander Türck, Michael Fritsch, Dieter Opitz, Christian Helms, Thomas Hintze, Christian Wolter, Frank Fredrich, Volker Huckstorf and Christian Lewin for technical assistance, experimental set up and helpful discussions. Thanks also to Ian Winfield, Thrond Haugen, Richard Svanbäck, Anders Nilsson and the handling editor Libby Marschall for helpful reviews and comments on the manuscript. This study was partly funded by the R + D project Inland Fisheries Management at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries and the Adaptfish-Project funded by the Leibniz Community through a grant to R. A. (www.adaptfish.igb-berlin.de). This study was approved through an animal care permit granted by the Ministry for Rural Development, Environment and Consumer Protection, Brandenburg, according to the German Animal Protection Act.

Supplementary material

442_2009_1415_MOESM1_ESM.doc (80 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 97 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Kobler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Klefoth
    • 1
  • Thomas Mehner
    • 1
  • Robert Arlinghaus
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biology, EthologyUniversity of AntwerpWilrijk (Antwerpen)Belgium
  3. 3.Inland Fisheries Management Laboratory, Institute of Animal Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and HorticultureHumboldt-University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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