1 Inquiries into niche variation within populations typically focus on proximate ecological causes such as competition. Here we examine how landscape heterogeneity and allochthonous (marine) subsidy might ultimately generate intrapopulation niche diversity.
2 Using stable isotope analysis, we detected extensive terrestrial–marine isotopic niche variation among subpopulations, social groups, and individual grey wolves (Canis lupus) that occupy a spatially heterogeneous landscape in coastal British Columbia comprising a mainland area and adjacent archipelago.
3 The inner island subpopulation exhibited the widest isotopic niche in the population, consuming extensive terrestrial and marine resources. Mainland and outer island subpopulations occupied comparatively narrow and primarily terrestrial, and primarily marine, niches respectively. Within these biogeographical subpopulations, social groups also diverged in niche.
4 To support examination at the individual level, we used an isotopic approach to test Van Valen's (1965) niche variation hypothesis. Consistent with the hypothesis, we observed that among‐individual variation increased with subpopulation niche width.
5 Patterns at all levels related to how a spatially heterogeneous coastal landscape structured the competitive environment, which in turn mediated the availability and use of terrestrial and marine resources. Broadly, our results suggest that spatial heterogeneity and allochthonous subsidy – both widespread but commonly subject to contemporary anthropogenic change – might provide novel opportunities for examination and conservation of ecological variation within populations.
Darimont, C. T., Paquet, P. C., & Reimchen, T. E. (2009). Landscape heterogeneity and marine subsidy generate extensive intrapopulation niche diversity in a large terrestrial vertebrate. Journal of Animal Ecology, 78(1), 126-133.