Phenotype-environment correlations in a putative whitefish adaptive radiation

Chris Harrod, Jennie Mallela, Kimmo K. Kahilainen

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93 Citations (Scopus)


1. The adaptive radiation of fishes into benthic (littoral) and pelagic (lentic) morphs in post-glaciallakes has become an important model system for speciation. Although these systems are well stud-ied, there is little evidence of the existence of morphs that have diverged to utilize resources in theremaining principal lake habitat, the profundal zone.
2. Here, we tested phenotype-environment correlations of three whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)morphs that have radiated into littoral, pelagic and profundal niches in northern Scandinavianlakes. We hypothesized that morphs in such trimorphic systems would have a morphology adaptedto one of the principal lake habitats (littoral, pelagic or profundal niches). Most whitefish popula-tions in the study area are formed by a single (monomorphic) whitefish morph, and we furtherhypothesized that these populations should display intermediate morphotypes and niche utiliza-tion. We used a combination of traditional (stomach content, habitat use, gill raker counts) andmore recently developed (stable isotopes, geometric morphometrics) techniques to evaluate pheno-type-environment correlations in two lakes with trimorphic and two lakes with monomorphicwhitefish.
3. Distinct phenotype-environment correlations were evident for each principal niche in whitefishmorphs inhabiting trimorphic lakes. Monomorphic whitefish exploited multiple habitats, hadintermediate morphology, displayed increased variance in gillraker-counts, and relied significantlyon zooplankton, most likely due to relaxed resource competition.
4. We suggest that the ecological processes acting in the trimorphic lakes are similar to each other,and are driving the adaptive evolution of whitefish morphs, possibly leading to the formation ofnew species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1068
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date11 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Medicine(all)


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