Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Does ecological release from distantly related species affect phenotypic divergence in brook charr?

Abstract

Ecological opportunity occurs when a resource becomes available through a decrease of interspecific competition and another species colonizes the vacant niche through phenotypic plasticity and intraspecific competition. Brook charr exhibit a resource polymorphism in some Canadian Shield lakes, where a littoral ecotype feeds mainly on zoobenthos and a pelagic ecotype feeds mostly on zooplankton. The objectives of this study were to test that (i) resource polymorphism is common in these brook charr populations, (ii) the presence creek chub and white sucker, two introduced species competing with brook charr for littoral resources, will decrease the phenotypic divergence between the two brook charr ecotypes, and (iii) the ecological release from introduced species will increase population and/or individual niche widths in brook charr. The study was based on 27 lakes and five indicators of resource use (stomach content, liver δ13C, muscle astaxanthin concentration, pyloric caecum length, and gill raker length). Our results indicate that within-lake differences in resource use by both ecotypes are common and stable through time. When facing interspecific competition, both littoral and pelagic brook charr incorporated more pelagic prey into their diet but maintained the amplitude of their differences in resource use, which contradicts our second prediction. Finally, we did not find any significant effect of introduced species on population and individual niche widths of brook charr. We suggest that the difference in feeding mode among distantly related competitors could prevent the complete exclusion of a species from a given niche and explain the lack of response to the ecological release.