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Phenotypic variation and associated predation risk of juvenile common carp Cyprinus carpio

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Juvenile common carp Cyprinus carpio were collected from 10 lakes with variable predator abundance over 4 months to evaluate if morphological defences increased with increasing predation risk. Cyprinus carpio dorsal and pectoral spines were longer and body depth was deeper when predators were more abundant, with differences becoming more pronounced from July to October. To determine if morphological plasticity successfully reduced predation risk, prey selection of largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides foraging on deep‐ and shallow‐bodied C. carpio was evaluated in open and vegetated environments. Predators typically selected deep‐ over shallow‐bodied phenotypes in open habitats and neutrally selected both phenotypes in vegetated habitats. When exposed to predators, shallow‐bodied C. carpio phenotypes shoaled in open habitat, whereas deep‐bodied phenotypes occupied vegetation. Although deep‐bodied phenotypes required additional handling time, shallow‐bodied phenotypes were more difficult to capture. These results suggest that juvenile C. carpio gradually develop deeper bodies and larger spines as predation risk increases. Morphological defences made it more difficult for predators to consume these prey but resulted in higher vulnerability to predation in some instances.

Document Type: Regular Paper


Publication date: January 1, 2012

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