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Aggression Level in Different Water Velocities Depends on Population Origin in Grayling, Thymallus thymallus


Annamari Salonen, Integrative Ecology Unit, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 65, FI-00014, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Phenotypic plasticity is recognized as an important mechanism of adaptation. However, because of its potential costs and limits, it has been hypothesized to be reduced and ultimately become lost when there is no selection for its maintenance. Heterogeneous environments in particular are expected to favour and thus maintain plastic phenotypes. Lakes and rivers differ in their flow regimes. In addition to higher average water velocity, rivers are characterized by distinct spatial and temporal variation in water flow, whereas lakes can be regarded as quite uniform in this respect. We studied whether behaviour, which is generally considered to be highly plastic, shows differences in the degree of plasticity between lake and river populations of the European grayling, Thymallus thymallus, fry in response to different water velocities. Given that aggressive behaviour in fish has been shown to relate to ambient flow regime, we compared aggressiveness of hatchery-reared grayling originating from hatchery stocks of two lake and two river populations in still and flowing water. River fish showed higher aggressiveness in flowing water compared with still water, whereas aggressiveness of lake fish did not appear to vary according to water velocity. The higher plasticity of aggressiveness evoked in river fish by different water velocities may thus represent an adaptation to more variable flow and presumably related feeding conditions in their natural environment.