Convergent polymorphism between stream and lake habitats: the case of brook char

Kurt M. Samways*, Peter R. Leavitt, Pierre Magnan, Marco A. Rodríguez, Pedro R. Peres-Neto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Phenotypic variability represents an important factor allowing species to adapt to local environmental conditions, but mechanisms underlying such variation are incompletely understood. This study investigated whether habitat-specific demands on swimming performance or difference in trophic relationships in lakes (pelagic, littoral) and streams (riffle, pool) were significant predictors of phenotypic variation exhibited by brook char (Salvelinus fontinalis), the only fish in the study habitats. Specifically, we hypothesized that pelagic and riffle habitats would impose greater selective pressures associated with swimming, resulting in body morphologies that were dorsoventrally compressed, anterior–posteriorly elongated, and that exhibited a long, narrow caudal peduncle. Geometric morphometrics was applied in a quantitative analysis of body morphology among habitats, whereas stable isotope analysis was used to differentiate between food sources. Analyses revealed that while body morphology differed between lake and stream habitats, there was convergence between the pelagic and riffle habitats, as well as among littoral and riffle and pool environments. The littoral and pool habitats were thought to be more structurally complex, thereby selecting for increased maneuverability but lower sustained swimming and correspondingly deeper bodies with shorter, dorsoventrally expanded caudal peduncles. Carbon source and trophic position did not differ among habitats with a system, suggesting that feeding was not the main influence on morphological plasticity; however, fish in the stream were feeding at a higher trophic position than fish in the lake. These findings suggest that individual species may take advantage of morphological variation to better adapt local surroundings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1406-1414
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number9
Early online date11 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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