3 years ago

Phenotypic plasticity in the morphology of small benthic Icelandic Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus)


Intraspecific phenotypic diversity is the raw material for evolution, so understanding its origin and maintenance is critically important for conservation of biodiversity. Intraspecific diversity in a trait or a suite of traits can result from genetic diversity and/or phenotypic plasticity. The two are, however, not independent as plasticity has been shown to evolve. In this study, we evaluated the importance of phenotypic plasticity in generating morphological diversity in populations of small benthic Arctic charr in Iceland, using a rearing experiment with contrasting modes of feeding. We also examined the association between phenotypic plasticity in offspring groups generated by the contrasting feeding modes and important ecological variables characterising the natural habitats of the respective populations. Although the level of plasticity could not be related to any of the ecological measurements, clear differences in morphological reaction norms among populations suggest that plasticity is an important aspect of morphological diversity of the charr. It is not clear whether that plasticity is adaptive, but it is notable that reaction norms in all populations have similar reaction to the treatments.

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