Discrete foraging niches promote ecological, phenotypic, and genetic divergence in sympatric whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)
AuthorSiwertsson, Anna; Knudsen, Rune; Præbel, Kim; Adams, Colin Ean; Newton, Jason; Amundsen, Per-Arne
Natural populations often vary in their degree of ecological, morphological and genetic divergence. This variation can be arranged along an ecological speciation continuum of increasingly discrete variation, with high inter-individual variation at one end and well defined species in the other. In postglacial fishes, evolutionary divergence has commonly resulted in the co-occurrence of a pelagic and a benthic specialist. We studied three replicate lakes supporting sympatric pelagic and benthic European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus (L.)) morphs in search for early signs of possible further divergence into more specialized niches. Using stomach content data (recent diet) and stable isotope analyses (time-integrated measure of trophic niche use), we observed a split in the trophic niche within the benthic whitefish morph, with individuals specializing on either littoral or profundal resources. This divergence in resource use was accompanied by small but significant differences in an adaptive morphological trait (gill raker number) and significant genetic differences between fish exploiting littoral and profundal habitats and foraging resources. The same pattern of parallel divergence was found in all three lakes, suggesting similar natural selection pressures driving and/or maintaining the divergence. The two levels of divergence (a clear and robust benthic – pelagic and a more subtle littoral – profundal divergence) observed in this study apparently represent different stages in the process of ecological speciation.
This article is part of Anna Siwertsson's doctoral thesis, available in Munin at http://hdl.handle.net/10037/4566
CitationEvolutionary Ecology (2013), vol, 27(3):547-564
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