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Water Transparency Drives Intra-Population Divergence in Eurasian Perch (Perca fluviatilis)
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012
Author: Pia Bartels et al.

by Pia Bartels, Philipp E. Hirsch, Richard Svanbäck, Peter Eklöv

Trait combinations that lead to a higher efficiency in resource utilization are important drivers of divergent natural selection and adaptive radiation. However, variation in environmental features might constrain foraging in complex ways and therefore impede the exploitation of critical resources. We tested the effect of water transparency on intra-population divergence in morphology of Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis) across seven lakes in central Sweden. Morphological divergence between near-shore littoral and open-water pelagic perch substantially increased with increasing water transparency. Reliance on littoral resources increased strongly with increasing water transparency in littoral populations, whereas littoral reliance was not affected by water transparency in pelagic populations. Despite the similar reliance on pelagic resources in pelagic populations along the water transparency gradient, the utilization of particular pelagic prey items differed with variation in water transparency in pelagic populations. Pelagic perch utilized cladocerans in lakes with high water transparency and copepods in lakes with low water transparency. We suggest that under impaired visual conditions low utilization of littoral resources by littoral perch and utilization of evasive copepods by pelagic perch may lead to changes in morphology. Our findings indicate that visual conditions can affect population divergence in predator populations through their effects on resource utilization.