Fish movement and habitat use depends on water body size and shape

D. A. Woolnough, J. A. Downing, T. J. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Home ranges are central to understanding habitat diversity, effects of fragmentation and conservation. The distance that an organism moves yields information on life history, genetics and interactions with other organisms. Present theory suggests that home range is set by body size of individuals. Here, we analyse estimates of home ranges in lakes and rivers to show that body size of fish and water body size and shape influence home range size. Using 71 studies including 66 fish species on five continents, we show that home range estimates increased with increasing water body size across water body shapes. This contrasts with past studies concluding that body size sets home range. We show that water body size was a consistently significant predictor of home range. In conjunction, body size and water body size can provide improved estimates of home range than just body size alone. As habitat patches are decreasing in size worldwide, our findings have implications for ecology, conservation and genetics of populations in fragmented ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-91
Number of pages9
JournalEcology of Freshwater Fish
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Allometric theory
  • Ecosystem size
  • Movement
  • Predictive theory
  • Spatial scale


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