Shape up or ship out: Migratory behaviour predicts morphology across spatial scale in a freshwater fish

B.B. Chapman, K. Hulthén, C. Brönmark, P.A. Nilsson, Christian Skov, L.A. Hansson, J. Brodersen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Migration is a widespread phenomenon, with powerful ecological and evolutionary consequences. Morphological adaptations to reduce the energetic costs associated with migratory transport are commonly documented for migratory species. However, few studies have investigated whether variation in body morphology can be explained by variation in migratory strategy within a species. We address this question in roach Rutilus rutilus, a partially migratory freshwater fish that migrates from lakes into streams during winter. We both compare body shape between populations that differ in migratory opportunity (open vs. closed lakes), and between individuals from a single population that vary in migratory propensity (migrants and residents from a partially migratory population). Following hydrodynamic theory, we posit that migrants should have a more shallow body depth, to reduce the costs associated with migrating into streams with higher flow conditions than the lakes the residents occupy all year round. We find evidence both across and within populations to support our prediction, with individuals from open lakes and migrants from the partially migratory population having a more slender, shallow-bodied morphology than fish from closed lakes and all-year residents. Our data suggest that a shallow body morphology is beneficial to migratory individuals and our study is one of the first to link migratory strategy and intraspecific variation in body shape
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1187-1193
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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