While interspecific competition is prevalent in natural systems, we do not yet understand how it can influence an individual's phenotype within its lifetime and how this might affect performance. Morphology and swimming performance are two important fitness-related traits in fishes. Both traits are essential in acquiring and defending resources as well as avoiding predation. Here, we examined if interspecific competition could induce changes in morphology and affect the swimming performance of two strains of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). We imposed competitive scenarios on the fish using artificial streams containing different combinations of four interspecific competitors. Exposure to interspecific competitors induced morphological changes over time, through the development of deeper bodies, whereas controls free of interspecific competitors developed more fusiform body shapes. Furthermore, swimming performance was correlated to fusiform morphologies and was weaker for Atlantic salmon in competitive scenarios vs.
Controls: This implies that interspecific competition has direct effects on these fitness-related traits in Atlantic salmon. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that morphology, an important fitness-related trait linked to swimming performance, has been shown to be negatively impacted through interactions with an interspecific competitor.
Keywords: Atlantic salmon; Geometric morphometrics; Interspecific competition; Salmo salar; Swimming performance.