Phenotypic plasticity and contemporary evolution in introduced populations: evidence from translocated populations of white sands pupfish (Cyrpinodon tularosa)

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Contemporary evolution has been shown in a few studies to be an important component of colonization ability, but seldom have researchers considered whether phenotypic plasticity facilitates directional evolution from the invasion event. In the current study, we evaluated body shape divergence of the New Mexico State-threatened White Sands pupfish (Cyprinodon tularosa) that were introduced to brackish, lacustrine habitats at two different time in the recent past (approximately 30 years and 1 year previously) from the same source population (saline river environment). Pupfish body shape is correlated with environmental salinity: fish from saline habitats are characterized by slender body shapes, whereas fish from fresher, yet brackish springs are deep-bodied. In this study, lacustrine populations consisted of an approximately 30-year old population and several 1-year old populations, all introduced from the same source. The body shape divergence of the 30-year old population was significant and greater than any of the divergences of the 1-year old populations (which were for the most part not significant). Nonetheless, all body shape changes exhibited body deepening in less saline environments. We conclude that phenotypic plasticity potentially facilitates directional evolution of body deepening for introduced pupfish populations.

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