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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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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Mehner, T., Busch, S., Clemmesen, C. et al. Ecological commonalities among pelagic fishes: comparison of freshwater ciscoes and marine herring and sprat. Mar Biol 159, 2583–2603 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-012-1922-9

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Keywords

  • Great Lake
  • Diel Vertical Migration
  • Laurentian Great Lake
  • Pelagic Habitat
  • Bornholm Basin