Natural populations react to harvesting by showing demographic, plastic, and evolutionary responses. The evolutionary responses to fisheries can be rapid, a conclusion well supported by observational, experimental, and modeling studies. However, research on fisheries-induced evolution mainly focuses on a limited number of life-history traits, such as those characterizing maturation schedules, growth patterns, and reproductive investments. Trophic traits that describe the interaction of a harvested species with its environment are often not considered, probably because many studies on fisheries-induced evolution focus on single-species dynamics. Yet, harvesting might lead to adaptive responses in traits associated with trophic interactions, possibly mediated through changes in life-history traits.
An important trophic interaction in many fish species is cannibalism. The evolution of cannibalism is predicted to depend on the profitability of cannibalistic prey in relation to the availability of alternative prey types. Both of these factors are heavily influenced by harvesting, but there is no clear understanding of how this changes the evolution of cannibalism. My project aims to elucidate this by studying how (size-selective) harvesting affects the evolutionary success of cannibalistic individuals. Furthermore, I will study how other interactions, such as intraspecific competition, alter the fisheries-induced evolution of cannibalism.
Last edited: 09 March 2016
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