Widespread intraspecific organismal stoichiometry among populations of the Trinidadian guppy

Rana W. El-Sabaawi, Eugenia Zandonà, Tyler J. Kohler, Michael C. Marshall, Jennifer M. Moslemi, Joseph Travis, Andrés López-Sepulcre, Regis Ferriére, Catherine M. Pringle, Steven A. Thomas, David N. Reznick, Alexander S. Flecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Ecological stoichiometry expresses ecological interactions as the balance between multiple elements. It relates the ecological function of organisms to their elemental composition, or their organismal stoichiometry. Organismal stoichiometry is thought to reflect elemental investments in life history and morphology acting in concert with variability in abiotic or environmental conditions, but the relative contribution of these factors to natural variability in organismal stoichiometry is poorly understood. 2.We assessed the relative contribution of stream identity, predation, body size and sex to the organismal stoichiometry of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in six streams in Trinidad. In this system, guppy life-history phenotype evolves in response to predation. Guppies adapted to high-predation (HP) pressure grow faster, mature earlier, produce fewer and smaller offspring and eat a higher-quality diet than guppies adapted to low-predation (LP) pressure. This pattern of life-history evolution is repeated in many rivers encompassing a wide range of abiotic conditions. 3.Organismal stoichiometry of guppies was widely variable, spanning up to ~70% of the range of variability reported across freshwater fish taxa. Streams from where guppies were sampled were the most important predictor of organismal stoichiometry. In many cases, guppy populations from sites within the same stream varied as much as from sites in different streams. 4.Surprisingly, predation regime was a minor predictor of % C, C:P and C:N in female guppies, despite its strong correlation with life-history phenotype and other organismal traits in this species. Body size and sex were not significant predictors of organismal stoichiometry. 5.Guppies from HP sites were more stoichiometrically balanced with their diets than guppies from LP sites. The latter appeared to be more vulnerable to phosphorus limitation than the former, suggesting that dietary specialization associated with guppy life-history phenotype may have stoichiometric consequences that can affect guppy physiology and nutrient recycling. 6.Our findings suggest that local environmental conditions are a stronger predictor of organismal stoichiometry than organismal traits. We recommend that future work should explicitly consider correlations between organismal traits and organismal stoichiometry in the context of environmental heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)666-676
Number of pages11
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Carbon
  • Evolution
  • Homoeostasis
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Poecilia
  • Stoichiometry
  • Threshold elemental ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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