Swimming performance trade-offs across a gradient in community composition in Trinidadian killifish (Rivulus hartii)

Ecology. 2011 Jan;92(1):170-9. doi: 10.1890/09-1912.1.


The impacts of predation and competition on life history, behavioral, and morphological traits are well established for many organisms, but effects on locomotor performance have received relatively little attention. We examined variation in sprint speed and critical swimming speed (U(crit), a measure of stamina) in the Trinidadian killifish (Rivulus hartii) across a gradient of ecological communities. R. hartii are located in (1) "high-predation" sites with large, piscine piscivores, (2) "Rivulus-guppy" sites with guppies, and (3) "Rivulus-only" sites with only R. hartii. R. hartii suffer higher mortality in high-predation sites. In Rivulus-guppy sites, population densities are reduced and growth rates increased compared with Rivulus-only sites, which likely represent indirect effects of guppy predation on young R. hartii. We show a significant negative relationship, suggesting a trade-off, between sprint speed and endurance; Rivulus from high-predation sites were faster sprinters but had reduced critical swimming speeds. This trade-off was also apparent in correlations of the nine population means. At the individual level, the correlation was weaker and only significantly negative when all nine populations (three from each site) were pooled and values were not corrected for body size. Sex had a significant effect on U(crit), with females having a lower U(crit), but sexes did not differ in sprint speed. Fish from high-predation sites also exhibited increased tail lengths and fineness ratios compared to sites without large predators. The two low-predation sites showed no statistical differences in locomotor performance or morphology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Demography
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Male
  • Poecilia
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Smegmamorpha / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology*