Changes in trait variability owing to size-selective harvesting have received little attention in comparison with changes in mean trait values, perhaps because of the expectation that phenotypic variability should generally be eroded by directional selection typical for fishing and hunting. We show, however, that directional selection, in particular for large body size, leads to increased body-size variation in experimentally harvested zebrafish (Danio rerio) populations exposed to two alternative feeding environments: ad libitum and temporarily restricted food availability. Trait variation may influence population adaptivity, stability and resilience. Therefore, rather than exerting selection pressures that favour small individuals, our results stress the importance of protecting large ones, as they can harbour a great amount of variation within a population, to manage fish stocks sustainably.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3464571.
- Received July 11, 2016.
- Accepted August 18, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.