Ontogenetic and evolutionary effects of predation and competition on nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) body size

Kaisa Välimäki, Gábor Herczeg

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16 Citations (Scopus)


1.Individual- and population-level variation in body size and growth often correlates with many fitness traits. Predation and food availability are expected to affect body size and growth as important agents of both natural selection and phenotypic plasticity. How differences in predation and food availability affect body size/growth during ontogeny in populations adapted to different predation and competition regimes is rarely studied. 2.Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius) populations originating from habitats with varying levels of predation and competition are known to be locally adapted to their respective habitats in terms of body size and growth. Here, we studied how different levels of perceived predation risk and competition during ontogeny affect the reaction norms of body size and growth in (i) marine and pond populations adapted to different levels of predation and competition and (ii) different sexes. We reared nine-spined stickleback in a factorial experiment under two levels of perceived predation risk (present/absent) and competition (high/low food supply). 3.We found divergence in the reaction norms at two levels: (i) predation-adapted marine stickleback had stronger reactions to predatory cues than intraspecific competition-adapted pond stickleback, the latter being more sensitive to available food than the marine fish and (ii) females reacting more strongly to the treatments than males. 4.The repeated, habitat-dependent nature of the differences suggests that natural selection is the agent behind the observed patterns. Our results suggest that genetic adaptation to certain environmental factors also involves an increase in the range of expressible phenotypic plasticity. We found support for this phenomenon at two levels: (i) across populations driven by habitat type and (ii) within populations driven by sex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-867
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2012



  • Growth
  • Local adaptation
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Sex-specific differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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