Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Biol. 2010 Jan 1;213(1):108-17. doi: 10.1242/jeb.031625.

Lateral line diversity among ecologically divergent threespine stickleback populations.

Author information

Division of Human Biology, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Ave N, Seattle WA 98109-1024, USA.


The lateral line is a mechanoreceptive sensory system that allows fish to sense objects and motion in their local environment. Variation in lateral line morphology may allow fish in different habitats to differentially sense and respond to salient cues. Threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) occupy a diverse range of aquatic habitats; we therefore hypothesized that populations within the G. aculeatus species complex might show variation in the morphology of the lateral line sensory system. We sampled 16 threespine stickleback populations from marine, stream and lake (including benthic and limnetic) habitats and examined the distribution, type and number of neuromasts on different regions of the body. We found that the threespine stickleback has a reduced lateral line canal system, completely lacking canal neuromasts. Although the arrangement of lines of superficial neuromasts on the body was largely the same in all populations, the number of neuromasts within these lines varied across individuals, populations and habitats. In pairwise comparisons between threespine sticklebacks adapted to divergent habitats, we found significant differences in neuromast number. Stream residents had more neuromasts than marine sticklebacks living downstream in the same watershed. In two independent lakes, benthic sticklebacks had more trunk neuromasts than sympatric limnetic sticklebacks, providing evidence for parallel evolution of the lateral line system. Our data provide the first demonstration that the lateral line sensory system can vary significantly between individuals and among populations within a single species, and suggest that this sensory system may experience different selection regimes in alternative habitats.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center