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Evolution. 2001 Feb;55(2):330-8.

Heterochrony, maternal effects, and phenotypic variation among sympatric pupfishes.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2701, USA.


Variation in ontogeny can produce phenotypic variation both within and among species. I investigated whether changes in timing and rate of growth were a source of phenotypic variation in a putative incipient species group of pupfish (Cyprinodon spp.). On San Salvador Island, Bahamas, sympatric forms of pupfish differ in morphology but show only partial reproductive isolation in the laboratory. Offspring from two forms and two geographical areas and their hybrids were bred in the laboratory, and ontogenetic trajectories of their feeding morphology were followed until maturity. In the Bahamian pupfish the two forms grow along similar size but not shape trajectories. Two heterochronic parameters, onset and rate of growth, alter shape trajectories in the Bahamian pupfish. Similar forms from different geographical areas (Florida and the Bahamas) grow along parallel shape trajectories, differing only in one heterochronic parameter, the onset shape. Hybrids within and between the pupfish forms produced intermediate feeding morphologies that were influenced by their maternal phenotype, suggesting that maternal effects may be a source of phenotypic variation in shape that can persist to maturity. In Cyprinodon, small changes in multiple heterochronic parameters translate into large phenotypic differences in feeding morphology.

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