Latitudinal populations of the Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia, show substantial genetic variation in rates of energy acquistion and allocation. Reared in common environments, silversides from northern latitudes consume more food, grow faster and more efficiently, store more energy, and produce greater quantities of eggs than their southern conspecifics. The persistence of seemingly inferior southern genotypes in the face of ostensibly superior northern genotypes suggest that there are hidden evolutionary trade-offs associated with these elevated acquisition and allocation rates. We tested the hypothesis that rapid growth and high levels of food consumption trade-off against locomotory performance in M. menidia. We compared both aerobic (prolonged and endurance) and anaerobic (burst) swimming capacities between intrinsically fast-growing fish from the north (Nova Scotia, NS) and intrinsically slow-growing fish from the south (South Carolina, SC) and between growth-manipulated phenotypes within each population. We also compared swimming speeds and endurance between fasted and recently fed fish within populations. Maximum prolonged and burst swimming speeds of NS fish were significantly lower than those of SC fish, and swimming speeds of fast-growing phenotypes were lower than those of slow-growing phenotypes within populations. Fed fish had lower burst speeds and less endurance than fasted fish from the same population. Thus, high rates of growth and the consumption of large meals clearly diminish swimming performance, which likely increases vulnerability to predation and decreases survival and relative fitness. The submaximal growth rate of southern M. menidia appears to be adaptive, resulting from balancing selection on rates of somatic growth.
Corresponding Editor: D. Roff