Ontogenetic scaling and the development of within-cohort size structure
It is increasingly recognized that individuals of the same species differ from each other and influence and respond to their environment in unique ways. This thesis deals with size variation among individuals that not only are of the same species but also of similar age. Such variation may develop even when individuals are born in the same environment, i.e. within a cohort. I have studied the sources and consequences of variation within and among cohorts from egg through early ontogeny using young-of-the-year (YOY) perch (Perca fluviatilis) as study organism.In agreement with predictions based on model results only taking exploitative interactions among individuals into account, I found that the broader the initial size distributions were, the more did the degree of size variation among individuals decrease over time. Still, with initially small size variation among individuals, in several experiments also size divergence was observed. Furthermore, size variation among individuals increased more under high compared to at low densities. Increased size variation over time may be explained by size-dependent diet shifts allowing for initially larger individuals to make an early diet shift when the first resource becomes limiting. However, as size divergence also was observed in situations with only shared resources available, it can be concluded that diet shifts are not a prerequisite for size divergence in young animal cohorts. Hence, I also suggest that mechanisms not related to competition for limiting resources, such as genetic variation, stochasticity and behavioural traits must be taken into account, especially when initial size differences are small.The importance of considering size variation among individuals within cohorts was demonstrated in a study of winter mortality in YOY perch cohorts. A large individual size in autumn was shown to increase overwinter survival within cohorts. However, late summer growth rather than average body size reached in autumn explained variation in overwinter survival between cohorts. Higher accumulation to lipid reserves and accordingly lower mortality over winter was observed in years with high growth rates late in the season. In another study I showed that apparent patterns of density-dependent growth can emerge among larval fish, but rather than a result of density-dependent resource limitation this was due to variation in size-selective predation pressure. Individuals in the right end of the size distributions grew in to a high predation pressure from cannibalistic perch when cannibal density was high, coinciding with high larval perch densities.Finally, as substantial size variation among individuals can develop within cohorts, also intra-cohort cannibalism can occur. Using a physiologically structured population model it was shown that the development of size bimodality within cohorts as a result of intra-cohort cannibalism is critically dependent on long hatching periods, high victim densities and density-dependent feedbacks on shared resources.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology; Freshwater ecology; cannibalism; competition; density-dependence; resource feedbacks; hatching; growth; ontogenetic niche shifts; Perca fluviatilis; size variation; larval fish; Animal Ecology; zooekologi
Date of Publication:01/01/2009