Evol Ecol Res 10: 1037-1050 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Emergent phenotypes: association between morphology and coloration in fish

Raphaël Proulx1, Martin-Hugues St-Laurent2 and Lael Parrott1

1Complex Systems Laboratory, Département de géographie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec and  2BIONORD Research Group, Département de biologie, Université de Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Québec, Canada

Correspondence: R. Proulx, Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Laboratory, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada.
e-mail: rafael.proulx@gmail.com


Hypothesis: Although the morphological and colour traits of an organism are adapted to the environment, they generally do not share common functional roles and are not subjected to the same selective pathways. We hypothesize that an integration of these traits in individuals sampled across a broad gradient of habitats and taxa should be indicative of the existence of emergent phenotypic patterns.

Organisms: 501 standardized photographs of fish species, each belonging to an exclusive genus, were downloaded from FishBase.

Field site: 77 geographical locations around the world.

Methods: Morphology and coloration traits were described respectively using nine and seven variables coded with a discrete semi-quantitative scale. Relationships were explored between these two sets of traits to highlight phenotypic patterns. Furthermore, a validation experiment was conducted on two phylogenically independent samples because some phylogenic inertia may drive the association among fish traits.

Results: A multivariate correlation between morphology and coloration of fishes supports the hypothesis of emergent phenotypic patterns characteristic of different habitats. We describe four main phenotypic patterns that correspond to fish species found in the offshore or inshore zones, and in deep or shallow water.

Conclusion: Integration between morphology and coloration can be seen as the consequence of a habitat-mediated convergence of phenotypic traits, at the individual level, and in response to both the physical habitat and the biological community.

Keywords: functional ecology, macroecology, species diversity, trait integration.

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