Evol Ecol Res 8: 37-49 (2006)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity: causes of morphological and dietary variation in Eurasian perch

Richard Svanbäck1,2* and Peter Eklöv2

1Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå and  2Department of Limnology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden

Address all correspondence to Richard Svanbäck, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
e-mail: svanback@zoology.ubc.ca


Question: What is the importance of genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity in forming the morphological difference between littoral and pelagic perch?

Organism: Juveniles of Eurasian perch (Perca fluviatilis L.).

Site: Enclosures (2 × 2 m) in a pond, Röbäcksdalen, Umeå, Sweden.

Methods: Adults from the littoral and pelagic habitats were bred separately and their offspring were raised in enclosures with either open water or vegetation in an artificial pond.

Results: Offspring from littoral parents had a higher proportion of littoral prey types in their diet than pelagic offspring even though there were no differences in prey community between treatments. Littoral offspring had a deeper body than pelagic offspring raised in the same environment. However, most of the phenotypic variation in this experiment was explained by phenotypic plasticity: offspring from both parental types raised in open water displayed pelagic-type characteristics, whereas offspring raised in vegetation displayed littoral-type characteristics.

Conclusion: Previous long-term studies on perch show that they experience a fluctuating environment due to population dynamics. The plasticity in perch could therefore be important as fluctuating environments favour plasticity.

Keywords: adaptive variation, genetic variation, perch, phenotypic plasticity, trophic polymorphism.

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