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Dietary plasticity of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) facilitates coexistence with competitively superior European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)


A. P. Eloranta, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 32, FIN-40014 Jyväskylä, Finland; Tel.: +358 14 260 4237; Fax: +358 14 260 2321. E-mail:


Abstract –  Habitat use and diet of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) coexisting with European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) and grayling (Thymallus thymallus) were studied in one deep and two relatively shallow subarctic lakes in northern Norway. Stomach content and stable isotope analyses revealed clear and temporally stable resource partitioning between the species in all three lakes. Arctic charr had a wide and flexible trophic niche and was the only piscivorous species. In contrast, whitefish and grayling had remarkably stable planktivorous and benthivorous niches, respectively. In the deepest lake, Arctic charr together with grayling mainly utilised littoral benthos, while piscivory was more prevalent in Arctic charr in the two shallower lakes. In one of the shallow lakes, whitefish was apparently relegated to the inferior profundal niche because of dominance of the littoral by grayling. Our results suggest that Arctic charr may not necessarily need an extensive profundal zone as a refuge, but can coexist with whitefish if a third competing fish species like grayling occurs in the littoral habitat or if profitable small prey fish are available. The study demonstrates that strong dietary plasticity of Arctic charr is instrumental in the observed coexistence with the commonly competitively superior whitefish.