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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cannibalistic Fish Keep Their Shape


Some fish of the same species display very different features (“resource polymorphism”) even though they live in the same lake because they eat different foods. A team of European researchers found that early cannibalism is found in all species displaying resource polymorphism.

The effect of early cannibalism is twofold. First, it stabilizes the variation in the number of individuals over time, which in turn increases the benefit of specializing on any resource since the risk of being dependent on a vanishing resource decreases. Second, an early disappearance of small newborn individuals increases the abundance of their prey due to decreased consumption from the small ones, hence increasing the benefit for larger individuals to specialize on this specific prey (typically zooplankton). link
Stabilization of population fluctuations due to cannibalism promotes resource polymorphism in fish. 2007. Jens Andersson, et al. American Naturalist 169:820–829.