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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Size and temperature dependent foraging capacities and metabolism: consequences for winter starvation mortality in fish

Bystrom P, Andersson J, Kiessling A, Eriksson LO


The foraging related capacities, energy requirements and the ability of individuals to withstand starvation are strongly dependent on body size and temperature. In this study, we estimated size-dependent foraging rates and critical resource density (CRD) in small Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) under winter conditions and compared these with previous observations under summer conditions. We investigated if starvation mortality is size-dependent in the laboratory, and we assessed the potential for winter growth and the occurrence and size dependency of winter mortality both in a large scale pond experiment and in natural lakes. The efficiency of foraging on macroinvertebrates increased with size but was lower at 4 than 12 degrees C, still CRD was lower at 4 than 12 degrees C as metabolic rates decreased faster than foraging efficiency with temperature. When starved, small char died before large and at rates which suggest that YOY char need to feed during winter to avoid starvation. Results from both our pond experiment and field study indicate that survival of YOY char over winter is high, despite severe winter conditions, because YOY char are able to feed and grow during winter. In seasonal environments with declining resources, the size scaling and temperature dependency of foraging and metabolic demands may provide conditions which can favour either small or large individuals. This size advantage dichotomy relates to that larger individual's by having a higher CRD are more likely to start starving, but once resource levels are below CRD for all size classes, small individuals starve to death at a higher rate. Negative size-dependent winter mortality from starvation is suggested to be more pronounced in species that are not adapted to feed at low temperatures and in species feeding on zooplankton, since zooplankton abundance, in contrast to macroinvertebrate abundance, is generally low during winter

Published in

2006, Volume: 115, number: 1, pages: 43-52

    SLU Authors

    • Byström, Pär

      • Department of Aquaculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Kiessling, Anders

        • Department of Aquaculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
        • Eriksson, Lars-Ove

          • Department of Aquaculture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Fish and Aquacultural Science

        Publication Identifiers


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