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J Evol Biol. 2013 Mar;26(3):483-98. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12063. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Adaptive plasticity and genetic divergence in feeding efficiency during parallel adaptive radiation of whitefish (Coregonus spp.).

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Division of Aquatic Ecology & Evolution, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Parallel phenotypic divergence in replicated adaptive radiations could either result from parallel genetic divergence in response to similar divergent selection regimes or from equivalent phenotypically plastic response to the repeated occurrence of contrasting environments. In post-glacial fish, replicated divergence in phenotypes along the benthic-limnetic habitat axis is commonly observed. Here, we use two benthic-limnetic species pairs of whitefish from two Swiss lakes, raised in a common garden design, with reciprocal food treatments in one species pair, to experimentally measure whether feeding efficiency on benthic prey has a genetic basis or whether it underlies phenotypic plasticity (or both). To do so, we offered experimental fish mosquito larvae, partially burried in sand, and measured multiple feeding efficiency variables. Our results reveal both, genetic divergence as well as phenotypically plastic divergence in feeding efficiency, with the phenotypically benthic species raised on benthic food being the most efficient forager on benthic prey. This indicates that both, divergent natural selection on genetically heritable traits and adaptive phenotypic plasticity, are likely important mechanisms driving phenotypic divergence in adaptive radiation.

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