Springer Nature

Evidence of local adaptation in a waterfall-climbing Hawaiian goby fish derived from coupled biophysical modeling of larval dispersal and post-settlement selection

Posted on 2019-04-11 - 05:00
Abstract Background Local adaptation of marine and diadromous species is thought to be a product of larval dispersal, settlement mortality, and differential reproductive success, particularly in heterogeneous post-settlement habitats. We evaluated this premise with an oceanographic passive larval dispersal model coupled with individual-based models of post-settlement selection and reproduction to infer conditions that underlie local adaptation in Sicyopterus stimpsoni, an amphidromous Hawaiian goby known for its ability to climb waterfalls. Results Our model results demonstrated that larval dispersal is spatio-temporally asymmetric, with more larvae dispersed from the southeast (the Big Island) to northwest (Kaua‘i) along the archipelago, reflecting prevailing conditions such as El Niño/La Niña oscillations. Yet connectivity is nonetheless sufficient to result in homogenous populations across the archipelago. We also found, however, that ontogenetic shifts in habitat can give rise to adaptive morphological divergence when the strength of predation-driven post-settlement selection crosses a critical threshold. Notably, our simulations showed that larval dispersal is not the only factor determining the likelihood of morphological divergence. We found adaptive potential and evolutionary trajectories of S. stimpsoni were greater on islands with stronger environmental gradients and greater variance in larval cohort morphology due to fluctuating immigration. Conclusions Contrary to expectation, these findings indicate that immigration can act in concert with selection to favor local adaptation and divergence in species with marine larval dispersal. Further development of model simulations, parameterized to reflect additional empirical estimates of abiotic and biotic factors, will help advance our understanding of the proximate and ultimate mechanisms driving adaptive evolution, population resilience, and speciation in marine-associated species.


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