Density-dependence is considered one of the most important regulators of population growth, and it has been documented across a wide variety of species. Typically, population growth rate and components thereof decline with increasing density (i.e., negative density-dependence); however, in species that exhibit high population densities and social behavior, positive density-dependence (i.e., Allee effect) may occur at low density. June sucker, a federally endangered lake sucker endemic to Utah Lake, Utah, USA, occurred historically at high density, and it exhibits coordinated feeding behavior. These characteristics indicate a potential for the existence of an Allee effect at current low population densities. To determine effects of density on growth, survival, and diet, I experimentally manipulated density of young June sucker in replicated enclosures in a natural environment. Larval June sucker were placed in enclosures at four different densities, and growth, survival, and diet of fish, and availability of prey (to determine selectivity) were measured at two time intervals. Both individual growth and survival were significantly lower at the lowest density compared to higher densities, indicative of a component Allee effect. Diets of individuals at low densities were more selective than diets of individuals at intermediate and high densities, suggesting a change in feeding strategy with density. Reduced growth and survival at low density suggests that corresponding, highly selective, feeding strategies may be less efficient than feeding strategies employed at higher densities. Allee effects appear to be an important consideration for recovery of this endangered species, and such effects may be common in historically abundant, but currently rare species.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



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Allee effect, component Allee effect, small populations, June sucker, conservation, ecology, density dependent, growth, survival



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Biology Commons