Marine Biology

, Volume 159, Issue 11, pp 2583–2603 | Cite as

Ecological commonalities among pelagic fishes: comparison of freshwater ciscoes and marine herring and sprat

  • Thomas MehnerEmail author
  • Susan Busch
  • Catriona Clemmesen
  • Ingeborg Palm Helland
  • Franz Hölker
  • Jan Ohlberger
  • Myron A. Peck
Original Paper


Systematic comparisons of the ecology between functionally similar fish species from freshwater and marine aquatic systems are surprisingly rare. Here, we discuss commonalities and differences in evolutionary history, population genetics, reproduction and life history, ecological interactions, behavioural ecology and physiological ecology of temperate and Arctic freshwater coregonids (vendace and ciscoes, Coregonus spp.) and marine clupeids (herring, Clupea harengus, and sprat, Sprattus sprattus). We further elucidate potential effects of climate warming on these groups of fish based on the ecological features of coregonids and clupeids documented in the previous parts of the review. These freshwater and marine fishes share a surprisingly high number of similarities. Both groups are relatively short-lived, pelagic planktivorous fishes. The genetic differentiation of local populations is weak and seems to be in part correlated to an astonishing variability of spawning times. The discrete thermal window of each species influences habitat use, diel vertical migrations and supposedly also life history variations. Complex life cycles and preference for cool or cold water make all species vulnerable to the effects of global warming. It is suggested that future research on the functional interdependence between spawning time, life history characteristics, thermal windows and genetic differentiation may profit from a systematic comparison of the patterns found in either coregonids or clupeids.


Great Lake Diel Vertical Migration Laurentian Great Lake Pelagic Habitat Bornholm Basin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Research that has generated a part of the results mentioned in this contribution was primarily funded by the AQUASHIFT priority program of the German Research Council (DFG) (contract numbers: Me 1686/5-1, 5-2, 5-3 to TM; Pe 1129/2-3 to MP; Cl 126/3-1, 3-2, 3-3 to CC). The German Bundesländer Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig–Holstein, the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), the EU FP7 program “Forage Fish Interactions (FACTS—EU # 244966) and the “GLOBEC-Germany” program (German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, FKZ 03F0320E) provided additional financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Mehner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan Busch
    • 1
  • Catriona Clemmesen
    • 2
  • Ingeborg Palm Helland
    • 1
    • 3
  • Franz Hölker
    • 1
  • Jan Ohlberger
    • 1
    • 4
  • Myron A. Peck
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Ecology of FishesLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR)KielGermany
  3. 3.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)Sluppen, TrondheimNorway
  4. 4.Department of Biology, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary SynthesisUniversity of OsloBlindern, OsloNorway
  5. 5.Institute of Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, Center for Earth Systems Research and SustainabilityUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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