Small-scale phenotypic differentiation along complex stream gradients in a non-native amphipod

Published on 2019-07-11T05:00:00Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Selective landscapes in rivers are made up by an array of selective forces that vary from source to downstream regions or between seasons, and local/temporal variation in fitness maxima can result in gradual spatio-temporal variation of phenotypic traits. This study aimed at establishing freshwater amphipods as future model organisms to study adaptive phenotypic diversification (evolutionary divergence and/or adaptive plasticity) along stream gradients. Methods We collected Gammarus roeselii from 16 sampling sites in the Rhine catchment during two consecutive seasons (summer and winter). Altogether, we dissected n = 1648 individuals and quantified key parameters related to morphological and life-history diversification, including naturally selected (e.g., gill surface areas) as well as primarily sexually selected traits (e.g., male antennae). Acknowledging the complexity of selective regimes in streams and the interrelated nature of selection factors, we assessed several abiotic (e.g., temperature, flow velocity) and biotic ecological parameters (e.g., conspecific densities, sex ratios) and condensed them into four principal components (PCs). Results Generalized least squares models revealed pronounced phenotypic differentiation in most of the traits investigated herein, and components of the stream gradient (PCs) explained parts of the observed differences. Depending on the trait under investigation, phenotypic differentiation could be ascribed to variation in abiotic conditions, anthropogenic disturbance (influx of thermally polluted water), or population parameters. For example, female fecundity showed altitudinal variation and decreased with increasing conspecific densities, while sexual dimorphism in the length of male antennae—used for mate finding and assessment—increased with increasing population densities and towards female-biased sex ratios. Conclusions We provide a comprehensive protocol for comparative analyses of intraspecific variation in life history traits in amphipods. Whether the observed phenotypic differentiation over small geographical distances reflects evolutionary divergence or plasticity (or both) remains to be investigated in future studies. Independent of the mechanisms involved, variation in several traits is likely to have consequences for ecosystem functions. For example, leaf-shredding in G. roeselii strongly depends on body size, which varied in dependence of several ecological parameters.

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Jourdan, Jonas; Piro, Kathrin; Weigand, Alexander; Plath, Martin (2019): Small-scale phenotypic differentiation along complex stream gradients in a non-native amphipod. figshare. Collection.