Behavioral, Ecological and Genetic Differentiation in an Open Environment—A Study of a Mysid Population in the Baltic Sea
Diel vertical migration (DVM) is often assumed to encompass an entire population. However, bimodal nighttime vertical distributions have been observed in various taxa. Mysid shrimp populations also display this pattern with one group concentrated in the pelagia and the other near the bottom. This may indicate alternative migratory strategies, resembling the seasonal partial migrations seen in birds, fishes and amphibians, where only a subset of the population migrates. To assess the persistence of these alternative strategies, we analyzed the nitrogen and carbon stable isotope signatures (as proxies for diet), biochemical indices (as proxies for growth condition), and genetic population divergence in the Baltic mysid Mysis salemaai collected at night in the pelagia and close to the bottom. Stable isotope signatures were significantly different between migrants (pelagic samples) and residents (benthic samples), indicating persistent diet differences, with pelagic mysids having a more uniform and carnivorous diet. Sequencing of the mitochondrial cytochrome subunit I (COI) gene showed genetic differentiation attributable to geographic location but not between benthic and pelagic groups. Divergent migration strategies were however supported by significantly lower gene flow between benthic populations indicating that these groups have a lower predisposition for horizontal migrations compared to pelagic ones. Different migration strategies did not convey measurable growth benefits as pelagic and benthic mysids had similar growth condition indices. Thus, the combination of ecological, biochemical and genetic markers indicate that this partial migration may be a plastic behavioral trait that yields equal growth benefits.