Resource polymorphism and diversity of Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus in a series of isolated lakes


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Morphological, dietary and life-history variation in Arctic charr Salvelinus alpinus were characterized from three geographically proximate, but isolated lakes and one large lake into which they drain in south-western Alaska. Polymorphism was predicted to occur in the first three lakes because S. alpinus tend to become polymorphic in deep, isolated lakes with few co-occurring species. Only one morph was evident in the large lake and two of the three isolated lakes. In the third isolated lake, Lower Tazimina Lake, small and large morphs were found, the latter including two forms differing in growth rate. The small morph additionally differed from the two large forms by having more gill rakers and a deeper body than same-sized individuals of the large morph, consuming more limnetic and fewer benthic resources, having a greater gonado-somatic index and maturing at a smaller size. The two large forms consumed only slightly different foods (more terrestrial insects were consumed by the medium-growth form; more snails by the high-growth form). Trends in consumption of resources with body shape also differed between lakes. Variability in life history of S. alpinus in these Alaskan lakes was as broad as that found elsewhere. This variability is important for understanding lake ecosystems of remote regions where this species is commonly dominant.