Asymmetrical habitat coupling of an aquatic predator: the importance of individual specialization

Maria H. K. Marklund, Richard Svanbäck, Leanne Faulks, Martin F. Breed, Kristin Scharnweber, Yinghua Zha, Peter Eklöv

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


Predators should stabilize food webs because they can move between spatially separate habitats. However, predators adapted to forage on local resources may have a reduced ability to couple habitats. Here, we show clear asymmetry in the ability to couple habitats by Eurasian perch—a common polymorphic predator in European lakes. We sampled perch from two spatially separate habitats—pelagic and littoral zones—in Lake Erken, Sweden. Littoral perch showed stronger individual specialization, but they also used resources from the pelagic zone, indicating their ability to couple habitats. In contrast, pelagic perch showed weaker individual specialization but near complete reliance on pelagic resources, indicating their preference to one habitat. This asymmetry in the habitat coupling ability of perch challenges the expectation that, in general, predators should stabilize spatially separated food webs. Our results suggest that habitat coupling might be constrained by morphological adaptations, which in this case were not related to genetic differentiation but were more likely related to differences in individual specialization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3405-3415
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • diet specialization
  • food web
  • landscape genetics
  • morphological specialization
  • Perca fluviatilis


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