Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 1205–1217 | Cite as

Inter and intraspecific variation in fish body size constrains microhabitat use in a subtropical drainage

  • Renato B. Dala-Corte
  • Lucas De Fries


Microhabitat characteristics are expected to influence the distribution of stream fish species at fine spatial scales (e.g., within riffle segments). Body size is probably the most important trait that constrains microhabitat occupation by fish, but the effect of intraspecific variation has been understudied. We investigated how physical microhabitat characteristics affect species and body size distribution of fish within a stream riffle segment in a coastal subtropical drainage of Brazil. Fishes were sampled by electrofishing 56 riffle plots along a 730-m long stream segment. Species composition was significantly related to four microhabitat characteristics: substrate size, flow velocity, distance to margin and depth. In addition, mean body size increased with increasing substrate size and depth of microhabitat sampling plots. However, when including species identity in linear mixed-effects models (LMM), we observed a different relationship between body size and microhabitat characteristics, but most of the variation was explained by species identity. Thus, we fitted LMMs separately for each species and found species-specific relations between intraspecific variation in body size and microhabitat characteristics. The low variation explained in the models suggests that other fine scale factors, such as biotic interactions and dispersal from adjacent habitat patches, should be incorporated in modeling microhabitat use by stream fish. Our findings suggest that body size is important by itself, but intraspecific variation in body size also constrains microhabitat use differently for each species, which may depend on other species-specific traits, such as morphology, behavior and life history.


Microhabitat Riffle Fish assemblage Body size Atlantic forest 



We would like to thank to Cristina Jacobi and Patrícia Paludo for their assistance in the field work, and to Fernando Gertum Becker for suggestions to the manuscript. We also thank to three anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Fish sampling followed ethical guidelines (CEUA-UFRGS; #24433).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biodiversidade AnimalUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiâniaBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-Graduação em EcologiaUniversidade Federal do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil

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