Large fish forage lower in the food web and food webs are more truncated in warmer climates

Gissell Lacerot*, Sarian Kosten, Raquel Mendonça, Erik Jeppesen, José Luiz Attayde, Néstor Mazzeo, Franco Teixeira-de-Mello, Gilbert Cabana, Matías Arim, José Henrique Cantarino Gomes, Sh Tserenpil, Marten Scheffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Body size is usually considered a good indicator of trophic position in fish communities. Indeed, the proverbial wisdom that “Big Fish Eat Little Fish” is consistent with observations from marine systems where systematic removal of the largest individuals has occurred, with cascading effect in the ecosystems. Trophic cascades are also well documented in temperate lakes but may not be as pronounced in (sub)tropical lakes due to higher degree of fish omnivory. We analysed fish communities along a climatic gradient and showed the classical correlation between body size and relative trophic position disappears in warmer climates where large fish appear to be feeding systematically on the lowest trophic levels. This concurs with experimental findings demonstrating that omnivorous fish tend to include more plant and less animal matter in their diet at higher temperatures. Accordingly, the community-wide trophic web indicators, calculated based on stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N), showed that the average degree of trophic diversity declined from cold to warm lakes and that the trophic webs become more truncated towards warmer climates. This has implications for lake restoration approaches in warmer climates and in temperate lakes within the context of global warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3877-3888
Issue number17-18
Early online date9 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Body size
  • Latitude
  • Stable isotopes
  • Temperature
  • Trophic diversity
  • Trophic webs


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