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Locomotory capacity of Baltic Sea and freshwater populations of the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

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Institut für Biodiversitätsforschung, Universität Rostock, Abteilung Stoffwechselphysiologie, Albert-Einstein-Strasse 3, D-18051 Rostock, Germany.


Two freshwater populations and one marine population (Baltic Sea) of threespine stickeback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) from Northeastern Germany were studied with regard to locomotory capacity: sustained swimming performance, activities of key enzymes in axial muscle, pectoral fin muscle and heart, and morphology. We postulated that life history differences between migratory Baltic Sea and resident freshwater populations could have led to a divergence in their locomotory capacity. The activity of citrate synthase (CS) in pectoral muscle correlated with critical swimming speed. Critical swimming speed, aerobic and anaerobic capacity of the pectoral fin muscle were population-specific. The Baltic Sea sticklebacks had a higher locomotory capacity (activity of CS in pectoral muscle, critical swimming speed) than sticklebacks of one freshwater population. However, another freshwater population expressed a similar locomotory capacity as the Baltic Sea population. In addition, Baltic Sea sticklebacks had a greater mass and lower anaerobic capacity of the pectoral fin muscle than the freshwater sticklebacks. The results are interpreted as an indication of a proceeding divergence between marine and resident freshwater populations and between freshwater populations of G. aculeatus originating from marine ancestors. The migratory Baltic Sea sticklebacks had better morphological prerequisites for sustained swimming than both freshwater populations, but there was no general difference in the locomotory capacity between marine and freshwater sticklebacks. However, their morphology could favour a more effective locomotion in the Baltic Sea sticklebacks.

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