, Volume 158, Issue 2, pp 249–257 | Cite as

Resource heterogeneity, diet shifts and intra-cohort competition: effects on size divergence in YOY fish

Population Ecology - Original Paper


Most organisms exhibit a substantial size variation among individuals due to individual differences in experienced biotic and abiotic environmental conditions and because individuals undergo growth and development during most of their life time. One important issue in this context is how size variation within cohorts may develop over time. Here, we tested the hypothesis, in gape-limited animals such as fish, that size divergence among individuals within a cohort depends on the opportunity to undergo size-dependent diet shifts, by allowing initially larger individuals to make an early diet shift when the first resource becomes limiting. We used young-of-the-year perch (Perca fluviatilis) as our study organism. Competitive intensity and the opportunity to undergo a diet shift from zooplankton to macroinvertebrates affected both mean growth rates and the extent to which inter-individual variation in growth was manifested. As predicted, increased competition combined with the presence of both zooplankton and benthic macroinvertebrates increased the degree of size variation. However, size divergence was also observed among individuals when only the initial resource, zooplankton, was available. We argue that only non-exploitative interactions, such as dominance structures and social interactions, could have caused this latter pattern, as exploitative competition is expected to lead to size convergence due to the superior competitive ability of smaller individuals. Our results suggest that diet shifts are not a prerequisite for size divergence in animal cohorts, and that dominance and social interactions may have similar effects on size variation within cohorts. Finally, development of size variation is suggested to have strong implications for overall cohort performance.


Diet shifts Competition Size divergence Social interactions Perca fluviatilis 


  1. Altwegg R, Reyer HU (2003) Patterns of natural selection on size at metamorphosis in water frogs. Evolution 57:872–882PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beeck P, Tauber S, Kiel S, Borcherding J (2002) 0 + perch predation on 0 + bream: a case study in a eutrophic gravel pit lake. Freshwat Biol 47:2359–2369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biro PA, Morton AE, Post JR, Parkinson EA (2004) Over-winter lipid depletion and mortality of age-0 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 61:1513–1519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolnick DI, Svanbäck R, Fordyce JA, Yang LH, Davis JM, Hulsey CD, Forrister ML (2003) The ecology of individuals: incidence and implications of individual specialization. Am Nat 161:1–28PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borowsky RL (1973) Social control of adult size in males Xiphophorus variatus. Nature 245:332–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bottrell HH, Duncan A, Gliwicz ZM, Grygierik E, Larsson P, Weglenska T (1976) A review of some problems in zooplankton production studies. Norw J Zool 24:419–456Google Scholar
  7. Brabrand Å (1995) Intra-cohort cannibalism among larval stages of perch (Perca fluviatilis). Ecol Freshwat Fish 4:70–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Byström P, Garcia-Berthóu E (1999) Density dependent growth and size specific competitive interactions in young fish. Oikos 86:217–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Byström P, Persson L, Wahlström E (1998) Competing predators and prey: Juvenile bottlenecks in whole-lake experiments. Ecology 79:2153–2167Google Scholar
  10. Byström P, Persson L, Wahlström E, Westman E (2003) Size- and density-dependent habitat use in predators: consequences for habitat shifts in young fish. J Anim Ecol 72:156–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Claessen D, De Roos AM, Persson L (2000) Dwarfs and giants: cannibalism and competition in size-structured populations. Am Nat 155:219–237PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Craig JF (2000) Swimming, movements and migrations. In: Craig JF (ed) Percid fishes—sysmtematics, ecology and exploitation. Blackwell Science, Oxford, UK, pp 78–105Google Scholar
  13. De Roos AM, Persson L (2001) Physiologically structured models—from versatile technique to ecological theory. Oikos 94:51–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Roos AM, Persson L, McCauley E (2003) The influence of size-dependent life-history traits on the structure and dynamics of populations and communities. Ecol Lett 6:473–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeAngelis DL, Rose KA, Crowder LB, Marschall EA, Lika D (1993) Fish cohort dynamics—application of complementary modeling approaches. Am Nat 142:604–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ebenman B (1988) Dynamics of age- and size-structured populations; intraspecific competition. In: Ebenman B, Persson L (eds) Size-structured populations: ecology and evolution. Springer, Berlin, pp 127–139Google Scholar
  17. Einum S (2003) Atlantic salmon growth in strongly food-limited environments: Effects of egg size and paternal phenotype? Environ Biol Fish 67:263–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eklöv P, Svanbäck R (2006) Predation favors phenotypic divergence in sympatric perch populations. Am Nat 167:440–452PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Galarowicz TL, Adams JA, Wahl DH (2006) The influence of prey availability on ontogenetic diet shifts of a juvenile piscivore. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 63:1722–1733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grant JWA (1993) Whether or not to defend? The influence of resource distribution. Mar Behav Physiol 22:137–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grant JWA, Girard IL, Breu C, Weir LK (2002) Influence of food abundance on competitive aggression in juvenile convict cichlids. Anim Behav 63:323–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hambright KD (1991) Experimental analysis of prey selection by largemouth bass: role of predator mouth width and prey body depth. Trans Am Fish Soc 120:500–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hare JA, Cowen RK (1997) Size, growth, development, and survival of the planktonic larvae of Pomatomus saltatrix (Pisces: Pomatomidae). Ecology 78:2415–2431Google Scholar
  24. Heermann L, Beeck P, Borcherding J (2007) Two size classes of 0 + year perch: is phenotypic plasticity based on food resources? J Fish Biol 70:1365–1377Google Scholar
  25. Hjelm J, Persson L (2001) Size-dependent attack rate and handling capacity: inter-cohort competition in a zooplanktivorous fish. Oikos 95:520–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huss M, Persson L, Byström P (2007) The origin and development of individual size variation in early pelagic stages of fish. Oecologia 153:57–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huston MA, DeAngelis DL (1987) Size bimodality in monospecific populations—a critical review of potential mechanisms. Am Nat 129:678–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johansson L, Persson L (1986) The fish community of temperate, eutrophic lakes. In: Riemann B, Søndergaard M (eds) Carbon dynamics of eutrophic, temperate lakes: the structure and functions of the pelagic environment. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 237–266Google Scholar
  29. Lomnicki A (1988) Population ecology of individuals. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  30. Mittelbach GG (1981) Foraging efficiency and body size: a study of the optimal diet and habitat use by bluegills. Ecology 62:1370–1386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mittelbach GG, Persson L (1998) The ontogeny of piscivory and its ecological consequences. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 55:1454–1465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morey S, Reznick D (2001) Effects of larval density on postmetamorphic spadefoot toads (Spea hammondii). Ecology 82:510–522Google Scholar
  33. Olson MH (1996) Ontogenetic niche shifts in largemouth bass: Variability and consequences for first-year growth. Ecology 77:179–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peacor SD, Schiesari L, Werner EE (2007) Mechanisms of nonlethal predator effects on cohort size variation: ecological and evolutionary implications. Ecology 88:1536–1547PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Persson A, Brönmark C (2002) Foraging capacity and resource synchronization in an ontogenetic diet switcher, pikeperch (Stizostedion lucioperca). Ecology 83:3014–3022Google Scholar
  36. Persson L (1988) Asymmetries in competitive and predatory interactions in fish populations. In: Ebenman B, Persson L (eds) Size-structured populations: ecology and evolution. Springer, Berlin, pp 203–218Google Scholar
  37. Persson L, Byström P, Wahlström E, Nijlunsing A, Rosema S (2000a) Resource limitation during early ontogeny: constraints induced by growth capacity in larval and juvenile fish. Oecologia 122:459–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Persson L, Christensen B, Hjelm J (2000b) Size-based tools for managing freshwater fish communities. In: Third Annual Progress Report, EC Contract No FAIR CT 96–1957Google Scholar
  39. Persson L, Leonardsson K, De Roos AM, Gyllenberg M, Christensen B (1998) Ontogenetic scaling of foraging rates and the dynamics of a size-structured consumer-resource model. Theor Popul Biol 54:270–293PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Persson L, Greenberg LA (1990) Optimal foraging and habitat shift of perch (Perca fluviatilis) in a resource gradient. Ecology 71:1699–1713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pfister CA, Peacor SD (2003) Variable performance of individuals: the role of population density and endogenously formed landscape heterogeneity. J Anim Ecol 72:725–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pfister CA, Stevens FR (2002) The genesis of size variability in plants and animals. Ecology 83:59–72Google Scholar
  43. Post DM (2003) Individual variation in the timing of ontogenetic niche shifts in largemouth bass. Ecology 84:1298–1310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Post JR, Parkinson EA (2001) Energy allocation strategy in young fish: Allometry and survival. Ecology 82:1040–1051CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rubenstein DI (1981) Individual variation and competition in the everglades pygmy sunfish. J Anim Ecol 50:337–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sih A, Bell A, Johnson JC (2004) Behavioral syndromes: an ecological and evolutionary overview. Trends Ecol Evol 19:372–378PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sogard SM, Olla BL (2000) Effects of group membership and size distribution within a group on growth rates of juvenile sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria. Environ Biol Fish 59:199–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Staffan F, Magnhagen C, Alanärä A (2002) Variation in food intake within groups of juvenile perch. J Fish Biol 60:271–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Svanbäck R, Persson L (2004) Individual diet specialization, niche width and population dynamics: implications for trophic polymorphisms. J Anim Ecol 73:973–982CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Taylor BW, Anderson CR, Peckarsky BL (1998) Effects of size at metamorphosis on stonefly fecundity, longevity, and reproductive success. Oecologia 114:494–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tinker MT, Bentall G, Estes JA (2008) Food limitation leads to behavioural diversification and dietary specialization in sea otters. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:560–565PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Treasurer JW (1988) The distribution and growth of Lacustrine 0 + Perch, Perca fluviatilis. Environ Biol Fish 21:37–44Google Scholar
  53. Uchmanski J (1985) Differentiation and frequency distributions of body weights in plants and animals. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 310:1–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vandenbos RE, Tonn WM, Boss SM (2006) Cascading life-history interactions: alternative density-dependent pathways drive recruitment dynamics in a freshwater fish. Oecologia 148:573–582PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ward AJW, Webster MM, Hart PJB (2006) Intraspecific food competition in fishes. Fish Fisheries 7:231–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Werner EE, Hall DJ (1988) Ontogenetic habitat shifts in bluegill–the foraging rate predation risk trade-off. Ecology 69:1352–1366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Whiteman EA, Cote IM (2004) Dominance hierarchies in group-living cleaning gobies: patterns of interaction and foraging consequences. Anim Behav 67:239–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ziemba RE, Collins JP (1999) Development of size structure in tiger salamanders: the role of intraspecific interference. Oecologia 120:524–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

Personalised recommendations