Plastic resource polymorphism: effects of resource availability on Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) morphology




Resource polymorphism has been suggested to be a platform for speciation. In some cases resource polymorphism depends on phenotypic plasticity but in other cases on genetic differences between morphotypes, which in turn has been suggested to be the ongoing development of a species pair. Here we study environmentally induced morphological differences in two age classes of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) influencing char performance and diet in relation to resource availability. We found that structurally complex habitats with relatively lower zooplankton densities gave rise to individuals with a deeper body, and a downward positioned tip of the snout compared with individuals from structurally simple habitats with relatively higher zooplankton densities for both age classes. Environment also had an effect on foraging efficiency on zooplankton, with fish from structurally simple habitats had a higher foraging rate than fish from structurally complex habitats. Diet analyses showed that resource use in char mainly depends on the relative abundance of different resources. Therefore, to gain further understanding of resource polymorphism we suggest that future studies must include population dynamic feedbacks by the resources on the consumers. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 85, 341–351.