Correlated trophic specialization and genetic divergence in sympatric lake whitefish ecotypes (Coregonus clupeaformis): Support for the ecological speciation hypothesis

Guoqing Lu, Louis Bernatchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

234 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is ample empirical evidence that phenotypic diversification in an adaptive radiation is the outcome of divergent natural selection related to differential resource use. In contrast, the role of ecological forces in favoring and maintaining reproductive isolation in nature remains poorly understood. If the same forces driving phenotypic divergence are also responsible for speciation, one would predict a correlation between the extent of trophic specialization (reflecting variable intensity of divergent natural selection) and that of reproductive isolation being reached in a given environment. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the extent of morphological and genetic differentiation between sympatric dwarf and normal whitefish ecotypes (Coregonus sp.) from six lakes of the St. John River basin (eastern Canada and northern Maine). Eight meristic variables, 19 morphometric variables, and six microsatellite loci were used to quantify morphological and genetic differentiation, respectively. Dwarf and normal ecotypes in each lake differed primarily by traits related to trophic specialization, but the extent of differentiation varied among lakes. Significant but variable genetic divergence between ecotypes within lakes was also observed. A negative correlation was observed between the extent of gene flow between ecotypes within a lake and that of their morphological differentiation in trophic-related traits. The extent of reproductive isolation reached between dwarf and normal whitefish ecotypes appears to be driven by the potential for occupying distinct trophic niches and, thus, by the same selective forces driving tropic specialization in each lake. These results therefore support the hypothesis of ecological speciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1491-1505
Number of pages15
JournalEvolution
Volume53
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1999

Keywords

  • Coregonus
  • Ecotypes
  • Gasterosteus
  • Microsatellite
  • Morphology
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Speciation
  • Sympatry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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