Theory predicts that selection should favour phenotypic homogeneity in fish shoals, and field studies have indeed confirmed that variation in body length within fish shoals is significantly lower than expected from a random distribution of fish among shoals. We investigated the extent to which variation in fish body length within shoals is determined by the shoal mean of body length, the number of species in a shoal, and the overall shoal size. We collected 34 fish shoals, ranging in size from 6 to 776 individuals, from the littoral zone of a Canadian lake. Shoals consisted of up to four different species, with multi-species shoals being larger and more frequent than single-species ones. The strongest determinant of body length variation within shoals was the shoal mean of body length, followed by the number of fish species in a shoal; i.e. multi-species shoals were less size-assorted than single-species ones. A more detailed analysis showed that the higher body length variation observed in multi-species shoals was due to increased body length variation both within and between component species. Shoal size had no significant effect on body length variation within shoals. Potential explanations of the positive relationship between body length variation and the number of species in a shoal are suggested. The implications of the above results for the evolution of multi-species shoals are discussed.

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Keywords Fish shoaling behaviour, Fundulus diaphanus, Notemigonus crysoleucas, Size-assortativeness, Species composition
Persistent URL
Journal Oecologia
Krause, J. (Jens), Godin, J.-G.J, & Brown, D. (David). (1998). Body length variation within multi-species fish shoals: The effects of shoal size and number of species. Oecologia, 114(1), 67–72. doi:10.1007/s004420050421