Seasonal population and individual niche dynamics in a tetra fish in the Pantanal wetlands

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In seasonal tropical regions, rainfall and/or temporary floods during the wet season generally increase the abundance and diversity of food resources to many consumers as compared to the dry season. Therefore, seasonality can affect intraspecific competition and ecological opportunity, which are two important ecological mechanisms underlying population and individual niche variations. Here, we took advantage of the strong seasonality in the Pantanal wetlands to investigate how within- and between-individual diet variations relate to seasonal population niche dynamics of the tetra fish Astyanax lacustris. We quantified dietary niche using gut contents and stable isotopes. Tetras had higher gut fullness and better body condition in the wet season, suggesting that competition is more intense in the dry season. The population niche was broader in the wet season due to an increase in diet divergence between individuals, in spite of potential stronger competition in the dry season. We posit that low ecological opportunity in the dry season limits the diversifying effect of intraspecific competition, constraining population niche expansion. Our results add new insights on how seasonality affects population and individual diets, indicating that intraspecific competition and ecological opportunity interact to determine temporal niche variations in seasonal environments.



Floodplain, individual specialization, intraspecific variation, mixing models, resource fluctuation, trophic niche

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Biotropica, v. 49, n. 4, p. 531-538, 2017.