Intraspecific phenotypic variation among alewife populations drives parallel phenotypic shifts in bluegill

Magnus Huss, Jennifer G. Howeth, Julia I. Osterman, David M. Post


Evolutionary diversification within consumer species may generate selection on local ecological communities, affecting prey community structure. However, the extent to which this niche construction can propagate across food webs and shape trait variation in competing species is unknown. Here, we tested whether niche construction by different life-history variants of the planktivorous fish alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) can drive phenotypic divergence and resource use in the competing species bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). Using a combination of common garden experiments and a comparative field study, we found that bluegill from landlocked alewife lakes grew relatively better when fed small than large zooplankton, had gill rakers better adapted for feeding on small-bodied prey and selected smaller zooplankton compared with bluegill from lakes with anadromous or no alewife. Observed shifts in bluegill foraging traits in lakes with landlocked alewife parallel those in alewife, suggesting interspecific competition leading to parallel phenotypic changes rather than to divergence (which is commonly predicted). Our findings suggest that species may be locally adapted to prey communities structured by different life-history variants of a competing dominant species.

  • Received February 3, 2014.
  • Accepted May 19, 2014.
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