Predator-Induced Phenotypical Change in Body Morphology in Crucian Carp

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Science  20 Nov 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5086, pp. 1348-1350
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5086.1348


In a field experiment where the presence or absence of piscivorous pike (Esox lucius) in ponds was manipulated, the morphology of crucian carp (Carassius carassius) diverged, such that individuals became deeper bodied in pond sections with pike. A laboratory experiment confirmed that the presence of this predator induced a change in body morphology in the carp. Estimation of prey vulnerability to predation by pike, a gape-limited predator, revealed that this increase in body depth resulted in crucian carp reaching a size that provided refuge from predation. However, this change in morphology incurs a cost through an increase in drag when the carp are swimming. Because crucian carp are limited by resources in the absence of piscivores and by the substantial cost of the defensive morph in their presence, phenotypic plasticity should be the optimal strategy for this species.

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