Agonistic behavior between heterospecifics, in which individuals of one species attack another, may cause a subordinate species to shift resource or habitat use. Subsequent evolutionary responses to selection may mimic shifts expected under ecological character displacement, but with no role played by exploitative competition. Alternatively, aggressive behavior can evolve when fitness is improved by excluding members of a coexisting species from a defendable resource through interference. We tested whether heterospecific agonistic behavior has evolved in brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) by comparing replicate allopatric populations to those sympatric with ninespine stickleback (Pungitius pungitius). We also tested for heritable variation in heterospecific aggressive behavior by rearing family groups in a common environment. Allopatric populations of brook stickleback were more aggressive than ninespine stickleback, suggesting that pre-existing aggression in brook stickleback contributed to niche shifts by ninespine stickleback. In addition, sympatric adult brook stickleback were more aggressive toward ninespine stickleback than brook stickleback from allopatric populations. Overt heterospecific aggressive behaviors were heritable, and aggression in juvenile brook stickleback increased with age in sympatric but not in allopatric populations reared in a common environment. Brook stickleback have evolved increased aggression when they coexist with ninespine stickleback. These stickleback communities have been structured by both evolved and pre-existing variation in heterospecific aggressive behavior in brook stickleback.
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Vol. 61 • No. 6