Individual diet specialization, niche width and population dynamics: implications for trophic polymorphisms

Authors

  • RICHARD SVANBÄCK,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
    2. Department of Limnology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyv. 20, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden
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  • LENNART PERSSON

    1. Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden
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Richard Svanbäck, Department of Limnology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyv. 20, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden. Tel. +46 18 471 2704; Fax: +46 18 531134; E-mail: Richard.Svanback@ebc.uu.se

Summary

  • 1We studied a perch Perca fluviatilis L. population that during a 9-year period switched between a phase of dominance of adult perch and a phase dominated by juvenile perch driven by cannibalism and intercohort competition. We investigated the effects of these population fluctuations on individual diet specialization and the mechanisms behind this specialization.
  • 2Due to cannibalism, the survival of young-of-the-year (YOY) perch was much lower when adult perch density was high than when adult perch density was low.
  • 3Both the individual niche breadth (if weighed for resource encounter) and the population niche breadth were highest when adult population density was high and, consequently, individual specialization was highest at high adult perch densities.
  • 4When adult perch density was low, the abundances of benthic invertebrate and YOY perch were high and dominated the diet of adult perch, whereas the density of zooplankton was low due to predation from YOY perch. At high perch densities, benthic invertebrate abundance was lower and zooplankton level was higher and some perch switched to feed on zooplankton.
  • 5Our results show that individual specialization may fluctuate with population density through feedback mechanisms via resource levels. Such fluctuations may have profound implications on the evolution of resource polymorphisms.

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