Intra-cohort cannibalism and size bimodality: A balance between hatching synchrony and resource feedbacks

M. Huss, T. van Kooten, L. Persson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Cannibalistic interactions generally depend on the size relationship between cannibals and victims. In many populations, a large enough size variation to allow for cannibalism may not only develop among age-cohorts but also within cohorts. We studied the implications of variation in hatching period length and initial cohort size for the emergence of cannibalism and bimodal size distributions within animal cohorts using a physiologically structured population model. We found that the development of size bimodality was critically dependent on hatching period length, victim density and the presence of a feedback via shared resources. Cannibals only gained enough energy from cannibalism to accelerate in growth when victim density was high relative to cannibal density at the onset of cannibalism. Furthermore, we found that the opportunity for early hatchers to initially feed on an unexploited resource increases the likelihood both for cannibalism to occur and size bimodality to develop. Once cannibals accelerated in growth relative to victims size bimodality, reduced victim numbers and relaxed resource competition resulted. Thus, in addition to that cannibals profited from cannibalism through energy extraction, their potential victims also benefited as the resource recovered due to cannibal thinning. To ensure recruitment success, it can be critical that a few individuals can accelerate in growth and reach a size large enough to escape size-dependent predation and winter starvation. Hence, within-cohort cannibalism may be a potentially important mechanism to explain recruitment variation especially for cannibalistic species in temperate climates with strong seasonality. However, the scope for size bimodality to develop as a result of cannibalism may be limited by low victim densities and size and food-dependent growth rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2000-2011
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • perch perca-fluviatilis
  • ontogenic niche shifts
  • the-year perch
  • largemouth bass
  • stizostedion-lucioperca
  • structured populations
  • dependent cannibalism
  • versatile technique
  • maternal influences
  • sulejow reservoir


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