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Keywords:

  • activity patterns;
  • food consumption;
  • growth rate;
  • interspecific competition;
  • mesocosm;
  • morphological divergence

This study investigated the importance of competition with brown trout Salmo trutta as a driver of the morphological and behavioural divergence of two morphs of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus. The morphs originated from two lakes differing in absence or presence of the competitor. The bioenergetics and behaviour of S. alpinus were quantified in replicate experimental enclosures (mean volume: 150 m3) stocked with 15 S. alpinus of one morph or the other and in the absence or presence of nine S. trutta. The presence of S. trutta decreased growth rate, affected food consumption and increased activity costs in S. alpinus, but provided little support for the hypothesis that competition with S. trutta is a major driver of the divergence of the two S. alpinus morphs. Both morphs responded similarly in terms of mean growth and consumption rates per enclosure, but the association between individual morphology and growth rate reversed between allopatric and sympatric enclosures. While the activity patterns of the two morphs were unaffected by the presence of S. trutta, their swimming speed and activity rate differed. Since the profound differences in the structure of the physical habitat of the source lakes provided a more likely explanation for the difference observed among these two morphs than interspecific competition, it is hypothesized that physical habitat may sometimes be a significant driving force of the phenotypic divergence.