Is There a Relationship between Fish Cannibalism and Latitude or Species Richness?
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Cannibalism has been commonly observed in fish from northern and alpine regions and less frequently reported for subtropical and tropical fish in more diverse communities. Assuming all else being equal, cannibalism should be more common in communities with lower species richness because the probability of encountering conspecific versus heterospecific prey would be higher. A global dataset was compiled to determine if cannibalism occurrence is associated with species richness and latitude. Cannibalism occurrence, local species richness and latitude were recorded for 4,100 populations of 2,314 teleost fish species. Relationships between cannibalism, species richness and latitude were evaluated using generalized linear mixed models. Species richness was an important predictor of cannibalism, with occurrences more frequently reported for assemblages containing fewer species. Cannibalism was positively related with latitude for both marine and freshwater ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere, but not in the Southern Hemisphere. The regression slope for the relationship was steeper for freshwater than marine fishes. In general, cannibalism is more frequent in communities with lower species richness, and the relationship between cannibalism and latitude is stronger in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, weaker latitudinal gradients of fish species richness may account for the weak relationship between cannibalism and latitude. Cannibalism may be more common in freshwater than marine systems because freshwater habitats tend to be smaller and more closed to dispersal. Cannibalism should have greatest potential to influence fish population dynamics in freshwater systems at high northern latitudes.