Send to

Choose Destination
Am Nat. 1997 Jun;149(6):1009-29.

Genetic divergence in adaptive characters between sympatric species of stickleback.

Author information

Centre for Biodiversity Research and Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.


This study explored the genetic basis of phenotypic differences between two sympatric species of ecologically and morphologically divergent sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus complex). The aim was to understand how many loci determine the differences and to what extent the differences are due to additive or nonadditive gene action. I reared the two parental species, F1 and F2 hybrids, and both backcrosses in the laboratory and measured the following quantitative characters: gill raker number and length (both involved in feeding), lateral plate number and pelvic spine length (both involved in predator defense), and growth (a fitness component). I then applied joint-scaling regression models to estimate composite additive, dominance and epistatic effects, and their contribution to divergence of parental lines. A simple additive model was sufficient for gill raker number and growth; additive and dominance effects contributed significantly to divergence in plate number and pelvic spine length; and additive, dominance, and epistatic effects contributed significantly to divergence in gill raker length. Wright's estimator for the number of loci for the four morphological characters ranged from 1 to 50. My results suggest that adaptive divergence between limnetic and benthic sticklebacks has taken place through a variety of genetic mechanisms specific to different traits. Though interspecific hybrids are completely fertile and viable in the laboratory, they are selected against in the wild. The pattern of inheritance for the traits examined here directly influences how well hybrids can exploit the two major resource environments in the wild.


Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center