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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 May 7;269(1494):923-30.

Impacts of trout predation on fitness of sympatric sticklebacks and their hybrids.

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  • 1Department of Zoology and Centre for Biodiversity Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.


Predation may be a significant factor in the divergence of sympatric species although its role has been largely overlooked. This study examines the consequences of predation on the fitness of a pair of lacustrine stickleback species (Gasterosteus aculeatus complex) and their F(1) hybrids. Benthic sticklebacks are found in the littoral zone of lakes associated with vegetation and bare sediments, whereas limnetic sticklebacks spend most of their lives in the pelagic zone. The cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) is a major predator of sticklebacks and the only other fish species native to lakes containing both benthic and limnetic species. In pond experiments we found that the addition of these predators primarily impacted the survival of limnetics. By contrast, benthic survival was unaffected by trout addition. The result was that relative survival of benthics and limnetics was reversed in the presence of trout. The presence of trout had no effect on the rank order of parent species growth rates, with benthics always growing faster than limnetics. F(1) hybrids survived poorly relative to benthics and limnetics and their growth rates were intermediate regardless of treatment. The results implicate predation by trout in the divergence of the species but not through increased vulnerability of F(1) hybrids.

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