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Effects of water depth and hydrodynamics on the growth and distribution of juvenile cyprinids in the littoral zone of a large pre-alpine lake

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In enclosure experiments in the littoral zone of Lake Constance, Germany, juvenile cyprinids showed significantly reduced somatic growth in the shallow eulittoral zone (0·5 m depth) compared to the sublittoral zone (1·6 m depth). Growth was especially reduced in larger and more deep-bodied fish groups, providing evidence that this is due to increased hydrodynamic stress, induced by ship and wind waves, in the shallow habitats compared to the deep habitat. Other factors such as water temperature and food availability seemed to be of minor importance for the observed growth differences. Gillnet catches at the experimental site and an adjacent site showed that most juvenile cyprinids, including the species from the enclosure study, bream Abramis brama and dace Leuciscus leuciscus, nonetheless prefer shallow habitats compared to deeper sublittoral habitats. Juvenile cyprinids in Lake Constance may prefer these shallow habitats as refuges against larger piscivorous predators, mainly perch Perca fluviatilis, despite the cost in terms of reduced somatic growth indicating that juvenile cyprinids first of all optimize survival rate instead of somatic growth rate.
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Keywords: body shape; enclosure experiment; habitat choice; hydrodynamic stress; otolith daily increment; somatic growth

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Limnological Institute, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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