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


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to A. D. Persaud.

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Persaud, A.D., Dillon, P.J., Molot, L.A. et al. Relationships between body size and trophic position of consumers in temperate freshwater lakes. Aquat Sci 74, 203–212 (2012).

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  • Body size
  • Trophic position
  • Stable isotopes
  • Zooplankton
  • Fish