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Size selective predation of pike on whitefish: The effects on resource polymorphism in Scandinavian whitefish populations
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The mechanisms behind speciation have been subject of debate for centuries. The presence of resource polymorphism has been discovered to play a significant part in this process, and has been proven to induce phenotypic and genetic divergence. Although resource polymorphism has been intensely studied during the last few decades, there is a gap of information as to why this can be observed in some systems but not in others. Recent studies of European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) in Scandinavian lakes have shown that predation, in this case by Northern pike (Esox lucius), could be the factor that induces resource polymorphism. European whitefish is known to diverge into several ecomorphs in Scandinavian lakes, but only in the presence of pike. Divergence is assumed to be caused by the size selectivity of pike, and the following niche separation and eventually reproductive isolation. In this study, pike prey selectivity was studied in the field through sample fishing using hooks baited with whitefish of different sizes. The hypothesis was that pike prefers smaller prey over larger and mainly hunts in the littoral zone. This should causes smaller whitefish ecomorphs to be prone to predation in the littoral and thus utilize refuge spawning grounds with low predation pressure. However, no pike were caught on whitefish spawning grounds, and fishing at two additional pike rich sites displayed a preference towards medium-sized whitefish (p < 0.05). This indicates a size selectivity, although further and improved studies would be required to answer the question of the pike’s role in resource polymorphism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 13 p.
Keyword [en]
pike, whitefish, predation, resource polymorphism, divergence
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-87582OAI: diva2:710103
Educational program
Bachelor of Science in Biology and Earthscience
2014-03-26, 12:56 (Swedish)
Available from: 2014-04-04 Created: 2014-04-04 Last updated: 2014-04-04Bibliographically approved

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Fahlman, Johan
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