Ontogeny of energy allocation reveals selective pressure promoting risk-taking behaviour in young fish cohorts.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Proc Biol Sci, 2005, 272 (1571), pp. 1443 - 1448
Issue Date:
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Given limited food, prey fishes in a temperate climate must take risks to acquire sufficient reserves for winter and/or to outgrow vulnerability to predation. However, how can we distinguish which selective pressure promotes risk-taking when larger body size is always beneficial? To address this question, we examined patterns of energy allocation in populations of age-0 trout to determine if greater risk-taking corresponds with energy allocation to lipids or to somatic growth. Trout achieved maximum growth rates in all lakes and allocated nearly all of their acquired energy to somatic growth when small in early summer. However, trout in low-food lakes took greater risks to achieve this maximal growth, and therefore incurred high mortality. By late summer, age-0 trout allocated considerable energy to lipids and used previously risky habitats in all lakes. These results indicate that: (i) the size-dependent risk of predation (which is independent of behaviour) promotes risk-taking behaviour of age-0 trout to increase growth and minimize time spent in vulnerable sizes; and (ii) the physiology of energy allocation and behaviour interact to mediate growth/mortality trade-offs for young animals at risk of predation and starvation.
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