Resource use of crucian carp along a lake productivity gradient is related to body size, predation risk, and resource competition
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionEcology of Freshwater Fish. 2022, . 10.1111/eff.12668
Generalist fish species can feed on a wide resource spectrum and across trophic levels depending on resource availability and trophic interactions. Crucian carp (Carassius carassius) represents a good candidate species to investigate variation in the trophic ecology of generalist fish as it can be found in highly variable fish communities and its resource use is well documented. In this study, we explored the trophic ecology of crucian carp at the individual and population levels using stable isotope and gut content analysis. We tested if trophic resource use varied according to lake productivity, predation risk, intra- and interspecific competition, or individual fish size. We found that crucian carp resource preference was highly variable among and within lakes. In predator-free lakes, small crucian carp occurred in high densities, showed increased interindividual specialisation, and relied mainly on pelagic zooplankton. In presence of predators, large crucian carp occurred in low densities and included greater proportions of benthic macroinvertebrates in their diet. This shift in resource use was further favoured in productive, shallow lakes where littoral prey was probably abundant. Resource partitioning was an important factor determining crucian carp niche use, as fish had higher trophic position in absence of other cyprinids. Crucian carp showed highly dynamic resource use and food preferences in response to variable environmental conditions. Overlooking complex diet preferences of generalist fish may lead to an oversimplification of freshwater community dynamics.