Malinich_Dissertation_Final3.pdf (7.97 MB)

Intraspecific Variation in Freshwater Fishes; Insights into Trophic Relationships, Morphology and Bioaccumululation

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posted on 15.08.2019 by Timothy D Malinich
Individuals within fish populations differ in many traits, such as sex, life-history, habitat residence, diet, and morphology. Such trait differences among individuals (i.e. intra-population variation) may be greater than the differences among populations (i.e. inter-population variation). My dissertation examines intra-population variation, with a focus on trophic relationships and morphology; as well as how variation in these attributes may reflect differences in bioaccumulation of contaminants. The second chapter of my dissertation examines the influence of spatial-temporal variation on the trophic structures of round goby (Neogobius melanstomus) and two age classes of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) within Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. Using stable isotope ratios (δ13C, δ15N, δ2H, δ18O) and stomach contents as trophic indicators, I examined variation of diets. I found that spatial variation had a greater impact on diet indicators than both annual and seasonal variation. This spatial variation could represent a form of compartmentalization within the community of fish residing in Saginaw Bay, and could provide stability to the community. Chapter three of my dissertation examines intra-population variation in yellow perch morphology through a series of mesocosm experiments. My first mesocosm study determined that yellow perch could be experimentally manipulated to display divergent morphologies using simulated habitats, specifically pelagic and littoral habitats. Following this experiment, I focused on specific environmental drivers (structure, prey resources, and predation risk) as possible influences on yellow perch morphology. Within experimental pools, I exposed yellow perch to one of four treatments (an open pool, a structured pool, pools with chironomid prey resources and pools with a perceived, olfactory, predation risk) in the summer of 2015. Following exposure to these treatments I examined the morphological changes in yellow perch in magnitude and direction. I observed that while each treatment induced some difference in morphology, the open and structured treatments had the greatest magnitude of difference. I repeated the open and structure treatments during the following summer (2016). Again, I found that structure and open morphologies could be induced by my mesocosm treatments, but also observed that shapes differed from the previous year’s structure and open treatments. Finally, my fourth chapter examined how variation in trophic niches and morphology may reflect variation in contaminant concentration of fish in their natural environment. In this chapter, I extended my work with yellow perch to also include black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) and examined fish from 5 northern Indiana glacial lakes. Using model inference techniques, I found that variation in mercury was closely associated with not only fish total length, but also stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) and morphology. Interestingly, morphology-related variables of both species were strong predictors of mercury concentration in fish, following total length. Together, the chapters within my dissertation highlight the importance of considering intra-population variation, in which local factors such as habitat conditions and prey availability can influence individual variation in trophic structuring and morphology. These in turn may reflect other attributes of interest, such as the accumulation of contaminants.


Indiana Water Resources Research Center


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tomas O. Hook

Additional Committee Member 2

Jason Hoverman

Additional Committee Member 3

Mark Christie

Additional Committee Member 4

Sergiusz J. Czesny



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