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Condition‐dependent individual decision‐making determines cyprinid partial migration

Brodersen, Jakob, Nilsson, P. Anders, Hansson, Lars-Anders, Skov, Christian, Brönmark, Christer
Ecology 2008 v.89 no.5 pp. 1195-1200
migration behavior, Cyprinidae, population dynamics, seasonal migration, lakes, freshwater fish, streams, mortality, winter, predation, Rutilus rutilus, Sweden
Partial migration is a common phenomenon among many animals and occurs in many types of ecosystems. Understanding the mechanisms behind partial migration is of major importance for the understanding of population dynamics and, eventually, ecosystem processes. We studied the effects of food availability on the seasonal partial migration of cyprinid fish from a lake to connected streams during winter by the use of passive telemetry. Fish with increased access to food were found to migrate in higher proportion, earlier in the season, and to reside in the streams for a longer period compared to fish with decreased access to food. Furthermore, fewer unfed migrants returned to the lake, indicating higher overwinter mortality. Our results suggest that individual fish trade off safety from predation and access to food differently depending on their body condition, which results in a condition‐dependent partial migration. Hence, our main conclusion is that individual decision‐making is based on assessment of own condition which offers a mechanistic explanation to partial migration. Moreover, this may be of high importance for understanding population responses to environmental variation as well as ecosystem dynamics and stability.