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Biol Lett. 2010 Dec 23;6(6):803-6. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0401. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

Morphological responses of a stream fish to water impoundment.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.


Water impoundment imposes fundamental changes on natural landscapes by transforming rivers into reservoirs. The dramatic shift in physical conditions accompanying the loss of flow creates novel ecological and evolutionary challenges for native species. In this study, we compared the body shape of Cyprinella venusta collected from eight pairs of river and reservoir sites across the Mobile River Basin (USA). Geometric morphometric analysis of the body shape showed that river populations differ from reservoir populations. Individuals inhabiting reservoirs are deep-bodied and have a smaller head, a more anterior dorsal fin, a shorter dorsal fin base and a more ventral position of the eye than C. venusta in streams. The direction of shape divergence within reservoir-river pairs was consistent among pairs of sites, and the shape of C. venusta in reservoirs is strongly correlated with reservoir size. These findings show that physical characteristics of reservoirs drive changes in the morphological attributes of native fish populations, indicating that water impoundment may be an important, yet largely unrecognized, evolutionary driver acting on aquatic biodiversity.

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