• Fish community;
  • lake;
  • community convergence;
  • ecological guilds;
  • species richness;
  • environmental gradients;
  • species–area relationship;
  • intercontinental comparison


Aim  To assess whether eight traits of fish communities (species richness, three reproductive traits and four trophic traits) respond similarly to environmental gradients, and consequently display convergence between the lakes of France and north-east USA (NEUSA).

Location  75 French and 168 north-east USA lakes.

Methods  The data encompass fish surveys, the assignment of species into reproductive and trophic guilds, and environmental variables characterizing the lakes and their catchments. The analytical procedure was adapted from the recommendations of Schluter (1986) [Ecology, 67, 1073–1085].

Results  The comparison of the regional pools of lacustrine fishes indicated that NEUSA was about twice as speciose as France, mostly due to higher species turnover across lakes, although NEUSA lakes were consistently about 20% more speciose than French lakes for a given surface area. Warmer environments were consistently inhabited by a higher proportion of phytophilous and guarder species than were colder lakes. Hence there was convergence in community reproductive traits. Conversely, there was no evidence of convergence in the trophic structure of lacustrine fish communities between regions.

Main conclusions  The influence of temperature on the availability and quality of spawning substrates appears to be a major constraint on present-day lacustrine fish communities. In parallel, phylogenetic constraints, past events such as the diversification of the North American fish fauna, and selective extinctions during Pleistocene glaciations and subsequent recolonizations contribute to explaining the dissimilarities between the communities of the two regions and differences in their relationship to the environment.