, Volume 783, Issue 1, pp 239–248 | Cite as

Parallel evolution of profundal Arctic charr morphs in two contrasting fish communities

  • Rune Knudsen
  • Per-Arne Amundsen
  • Antti P. Eloranta
  • Brian Hayden
  • Anna Siwertsson
  • Anders Klemetsen


A population of small-sized Arctic charr living their entire life cycle in deep water was recently found in Lake Skogsfjordvatn, Northern Norway. Their phenotype and life history closely resembles the profundal charr morph in another subarctic Norwegian lake, Fjellfrøsvatn. Fjellfrøsvatn has one littoral omnivorous and one small profundal benthivorous (PB) charr morph coexisting with brown trout, whereas Skogsfjordvatn has migratory salmon, trout, charr and eel populations in addition to threespined sticklebacks, resident trout and three resident charr morphs of which one is a large piscivorous profundal morph. We predicted that the small profundal charr morph in Skogsfjordvatn would have a similar trophic niche to the PB-morph in Fjellfrøsvatn and tested this by using stomach content and stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) analyses. Profundal benthic invertebrates, mainly chironomid larvae, Pisidium sp. mussels and small crustaceans, dominated the diets, and the δ13C and δ15N values indicated almost identical long-term trophic niches of the PB-morphs in both lakes. The prediction was therefore supported. This seems to indicate that the small profundal Arctic charr morphs in these lakes have evolved in parallel, in nearly identical and stable habitat and dietary niches in spite of likely different ecological interactions within the contrasting fish communities.


Tri-morphism Salvelinus alpinus Stable trophic niches Stable isotopes Niche divergence 



We thank our Department Engineers: Cesilie Bye, Laina Dalsbø and Karin S. Johannessen for their work in the field and the lab and Marie Gabler, Kristin Johansen, Bjørn S. Knudsen, Are Mo, Sigrid Skoglund, Aslak Smalås and John F. Strøm for their work in the field. We also thank the Guest Editor Colin E. Adams and the Associate Editor Michael Power for their recommendations, and the anonymous referees for very constructive and helpful reviews.

Supplementary material

10750_2016_2647_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


  1. Adams, C. E., C. Woltering & G. Alexander, 2003. Epigenetic regulation of trophic anatomy through feeding behaviour in Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus. Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 78: 43–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alekseyev, S. S., V. P. Samusenok, A. N. Matveev & M. Y. Pichugin, 2002. Diversification, sympatric speciation, and trophic polymorphism of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus complex, in Transbaikalia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 64: 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amundsen, P.-A., H.-M. Gabler & F. J. Staldvik, 1996. A new method for graphical analysis of feeding strategy from stomach contents data. Journal of Fish Biology 48: 607–614.Google Scholar
  4. Amundsen, P.-A., R. Knudsen & A. Klemetsen, 2008. Seasonal and ontogenetic variations in resource use of two sympatric Arctic charr morphs. Environmental Biology of Fishes 83: 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ali, M. A., M. Y. Klyne & G. Einarsson, 1984. Ecophysiological adaptations of the retina in the Arctic charr. In Johnson, L. & B. L. Burns (eds), Biology of the Arctic Charr. University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg: 251–261.Google Scholar
  6. Behnke, R. J., 1980. A systematic review of the genus Salvelinus. In Balon, E. K. (ed.), Charrs, Salmonid Fishes of the Genus Salvelinus. Junk, The Hague: 441–480.Google Scholar
  7. Bernatchez, L., S. Renaut, A. R. Whiteley, N. Derome, J. Jeukens, L. Landry, G. Q. Lu, A. W. Nolte, K. Østbye, S. M. Rogers & J. St-Cyr, 2010. On the origin of species: insights from the ecological genomics of lake whitefish. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 365: 1783–1800.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Brenner, T., 1980. The Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus, in the pre-alpine Attersee, Austria. In Balon, E. K. (ed.), Charrs, Salmonid Fishes of the Genus Salvelinus. Junk, The Hague: 756–772.Google Scholar
  9. Dörfel, H.-J., 1974. Untersuchungen zur Problematik der Saiblingpopulationen (Salvelinus alpinus L.) im Überlinger See (Bodensee). Archiv für Hydrobiologie Supplement 47: 80–105.Google Scholar
  10. Elliott, J. M., 2011. A comparative study of the relationship between light intensity and feeding ability in brown trout (Salmo trutta) and Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus). Freshwater Biology 56: 1962–1972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eloranta, A. P., R. Knudsen & P.-A. Amundsen, 2013a. Niche segregation of coexisting Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) constrains food web coupling in subarctic lakes. Freshwater Biology 58: 207–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eloranta, A. P., H. L. Mariash, M. Rautio & M. Power, 2013b. Lipid-rich zooplankton subsidise the winter diet of benthivorous Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) in a subarctic lake. Freshwater Biology 58: 2541–2554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hammar, J., 2014. Natural resilience in Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus: life history, spatial and dietary alterations along gradients of interspecific interactions. Journal of Fish Biology 85(1): 81–118.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Hayden, B., T. Holopainen, P.-A. Amundsen, A. P. Eloranta, R. Knudsen, K. Præbel & K. K. Kahilainen, 2013. Ecological interactions between invading benthivores and native whitefish in Subarctic lakes. Freshwater Biology 58: 1234–1250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayden, B., C. Harrod & K. K. Kahilainen, 2014. Dual fuels: intra-annual variation in the relative importance of benthic and pelagic resources to maintenance, growth and reproduction in a generalised salmonid fish. Journal of Animal Ecology 83: 1501–1512.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hesthagen, T., K. Hindar, B. Jonsson & J. Ø. Ousdal, 1995. Effects of acidification on normal and dwarf Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus in a Norwegian lake. Biological Conservation 74: 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jackson, A. L., R. Inger, A. C. Parnell & S. Bearhop, 2011. Comparing isotopic niche widths among and within communities: SIBER – stable isotope bayesian ellipses in R. Journal of Animal Ecology 80: 595–602.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Kahilainen, K. & K. Østbye, 2006. Morphological differentiation and resource polymorphism in three sympatric whitefish Coregonus lavaretus (L.) forms in a subarctic lake. Journal of Fish Biology 68: 63–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kahilainen, K., H. Lehtonen & K. Kononen, 2003. Consequence of habitat segregation to growth rate of two sparsely rakered whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) forms in a subarctic lake. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 12: 275–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kahilainen, K. K., T. Smura, R. Knudsen, P.-A. Amundsen, M. Jokela-Määttä & K. Donner, 2016. Visual pigments of polymorphic Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) and whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) in subarctic lakes. Hydrobiologia. doi: 10.1007/s10750-015-2588-3.
  21. Klemetsen, A., 2010. The charr problem revisited: exceptional phenotypic plasticity promotes ecological speciation in postglacial lakes. Freshwater Reviews 3: 49–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Klemetsen, A., P.-A. Amundsen, H. Muladal, S. Rubach & J. I. Solbakken, 1989. Habitat shifts in a dense, resident Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus population. Physiology and Ecology Japan 1: 187–200.Google Scholar
  23. Klemetsen, A., P.-A. Amundsen, R. Knudsen & B. Hermansen, 1997. A profundal, winter-spawning morph of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus (L.) in lake Fjellfrøsvatn, northern Norway. Nordic Journal of Freshwater Research 73: 13–23.Google Scholar
  24. Klemetsen, A., J. M. Elliott, R. Knudsen & P. Sørensen, 2002. Evidence for genetic differences in the offspring of two sympatric morphs of Arctic charr. Journal of Fish Biology 60: 933–950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klemetsen, A., P.-A. Amundsen, J. B. Dempson, B. Jonsson, N. Jonsson, M. F. O’Connell & E. Mortensen, 2003. Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L., brown trout Salmo trutta L. and Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus (L.): a review of aspects of their life histories. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 12: 1–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Klemetsen, A., R. Knudsen, R. Primicerio & P.-A. Amundsen, 2006. Divergent, genetically based feeding behaviour of two sympatric Arctic charr, Salvelinus alpinus (L.), morphs. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 15: 350–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knudsen, R., A. Klemetsen, P.-A. Amundsen & B. Hermansen, 2006. Incipient speciation through niche expansion: an example from the Arctic charr in a subarctic lake. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 273: 2291–2298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knudsen, R., P.-A. Amundsen, R. Primicerio, A. Klemetsen & P. Sørensen, 2007. Contrasting niche-based variation in trophic morphology within Arctic charr populations. Evolutionary Ecology Research 9: 1005–1021.Google Scholar
  29. Knudsen, R., R. Primicerio, P.-A. Amundsen & A. Klemetsen, 2010. Temporal stability of individual feeding specialization may promote speciation. Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 161–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Knudsen, R., A. Siwertsson, C. E. Adams, M. Gardunõ-Paz, J. Newton & P. A. Amundsen, 2011. Temporal stability of niche use exposes sympatric Arctic charr to alternative selection pressures. Evolutionary Ecology 25: 589–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Knudsen, R., H. Johnsen, B.-S. Sæther & S. I. Siikavuopio, 2015. Divergent growth patterns between juveniles of two sympatric Arctic charr morphs with contrasting depth gradient niche preferences. Aquatic Ecology 49: 33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knudsen R., K. Ø. Gjelland, A. P. Eloranta, B. Hayden, A. Siwertsson, P.-A. Amundsen & A. Klemetsen, 2016. A specialized cannibalistic Arctic charr morph in the piscivore guild of a subarctic lake. Hydrobiologia. doi: 10.1007/s10750-015-2601-x.
  33. Kottelat, M. & J. Freyhof, 2007. Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Kottelat and Freyhof, Cornol.Google Scholar
  34. McCutchan, J. H., W. M. Lewis, C. Kendall & C. C. McGrath, 2003. Variation in trophic shift for stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur. Oikos 102: 378–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mousavi, S. K. 2002. Community structure of Chironomidae (Diptera) in subarctic lakes. PhD thesis, University of Tromsø, Tromsø.Google Scholar
  36. Muir, A. M., M. J. Hansen, C. R. Bronte & C. C. Krueger, 2015. If Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus is ‘the most diverse vertebrate’, what is the lake charr Salvelinus namaycush? Fish and Fisheries. doi: 10.1111/faf.12114.Google Scholar
  37. O’Connell, M. F., J. B. Dempson & M. Power, 2005. Ecology and trophic relationships of the fishes of Gander Lake, a large, deep, oligotrophic lake in Newfoundland, Canada. International Review of Hydrobiology 90: 486–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Phillips, D. L., R. Inger, S. Bearhop, A. L. Jackson, J. W. Moore, A. C. Parnell, B. X. Semmens & E. J. Ward, 2014. Best practices for use of stable isotope mixing models in food web studies. Canadian Journal of Zoology 92: 823–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Post, D. M., 2002. Using stable isotopes to estimate trophic position: models, methods, and assumptions. Ecology 83: 703–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Præbel, K., R. Knudsen, A. Siwertsson, M. Karhunen, K. K. Kahilainen, O. Ovaskainen, K. Østbye, S. Peruzzi, S.-E. Fevolden & P.-A. Amundsen, 2013. Ecological speciation in postglacial European whitefish: rapid adaptive radiations into the littoral, pelagic and profundal lake habitats. Ecology and Evolution 3: 4970–4986.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Præbel, K., M. Couton, R. Knudsen & P.-A. Amundsen, 2016. Genetic consequences of allopatric and sympatric divergence in Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus (L.)) from Fjellfrøsvatn as inferred by microsatellite markers. Hydrobiologia. doi: 10.1007/s10750-016-2648-3.
  42. R Core Team, 2014. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. http://www.R-project.Org/.
  43. Rundle, H. D. & D. Schluter, 2004. Natural selection and ecological speciation in sticklebacks. In Dieckmann, U., M. Doebeli, J. A. J. Metz & D. Tautz (eds), Adaptive Speciation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 192–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schluter, D., 1996. Ecological speciation in postglacial fishes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 351: 807–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schoener, T. W., 1970. Nonsynchronous spatial overlap of lizards in patchy habitats. Ecology 51: 408–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Siwertsson, A., R. Knudsen, C. E. Adams, K. Præbel & P.-A. Amundsen, 2013. Parallel and non-parallel morphological divergence among foraging specialists in European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus). Ecology and Evolution 3: 1590–1602.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Siwertsson, A., B. Refsnes, A. Frainer, P.-A. Amundsen & R. Knudsen, 2016. Divergence and parallelism of parasite infections in Arctic charr morphs from deep and shallow lake habitats. Hydrobiologia. doi: 10.1007/s10750-015-2563-z.
  48. Skoglund, S., A. Siwertsson, P.-A. Amundsen & R. Knudsen, 2015. Morphological divergence between three Arctic charr morphs – the significance of the deep-water environment. Ecology and Evolution 5: 3114–3129.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Skulason, S., S. S. Snorrason & B. Jonsson, 1999. Sympatric morphs, populations and speciation in freshwater fish with emphasis on arctic charr. In Magurran, A. E. & R. M. May (eds), Evolution of Biological Diversity. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 70–92.Google Scholar
  50. Smalås, A., P.-A. Amundsen & R. Knudsen, 2013. Contrasting life history strategies between sympatric Arctic charr morphs, Salvelinus alpinus. Journal of Ichtyology 53: 856–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Snorrason, S. S. & S. Skulason, 2004. Adaptive speciation in northern freshwater fishes. In Dieckmann, U., M. Doebeli, J. A. J. Metz & D. Tautz (eds), Adaptive Speciation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 210–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Snorrason, S. S., S. Skulason, B. Jonsson, H. J. Malmquist, P. M. Jonasson, O. T. Sandlund & T. Lindem, 1994. Trophic specialization in Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus (Pisces; Salmonidae): morphological divergence and ontogenetic niche shifts. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 52: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wallace, R. K., 1981. An assessment of diet-overlap indexes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 110: 72–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Westgaard, J. I., A. Klemetsen & R. Knudsen, 2004. Genetic differences between two sympatric morphs of Arctic charr confirmed by microsatellelite DNA. Journal of Fish Biology 65: 1185–1191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rune Knudsen
    • 1
  • Per-Arne Amundsen
    • 1
  • Antti P. Eloranta
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brian Hayden
    • 4
  • Anna Siwertsson
    • 1
  • Anders Klemetsen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyUiT The Arctic University of NorwayTromsøNorway
  2. 2.Aquatic Ecology DepartmentNorwegian Institute for Nature Research -NINATrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  4. 4.Biology DepartmentUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

Personalised recommendations