Population genetics and independently replicated evolution of predator-associated burst speed ecophenotypy in mosquitofish. Academic Article uri icon


  • Many species show replicated ecophenotypy due to recurring patterns of natural selection. Based on the presence or absence of pursuit predators, at least 17 species of fish repeatedly differentiated in body shape in a manner that increases burst swimming speed and the likelihood of predator escape. The predator-associated burst speed (PABS) ecophenotype is characterized by a small head and trunk and enlarged caudal region. Mechanisms promoting replicated phenotype-environment association include selection (without evolution), a single instance of adaptive evolution followed by biased habitat occupation, repeated instances of local adaptation, or adaptive phenotypic plasticity. Common garden rearing of mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis, demonstrated a likely heritable basis for PABS phenotypy, but it is unknown whether populations are otherwise genetically distinct or whether replicated ecophenotypy represents a single or replicated instances of adaptation. To genetically characterize the populations and test hypotheses of single or multiple adaptations, we characterized variation in 12 polymorphic DNA microsatellites in the previously studied G. affinis populations. Populations were genetically distinct by multilocus analysis, exhibited high allelic diversity, and were heterozygote deficient, which effects were attributed to G. affinis's shoaling nature and habitat patchiness. Genetic and phenotypic distances among populations were correlated for non-PABS but not PABS morphology. Multilocus analysis demonstrated ecophenotype polyphyly and scattered multivariate genetic structure which support only the replicated-adaptation model. As all of the diverse tests performed demonstrated lack of congruence between patterns of molecular genetic and PABS differentiation, it is likely that divergent natural selection drove multiple instances of adaptive evolution.

published proceedings

  • Heredity (Edinb)

altmetric score

  • 4.7

author list (cited authors)

  • DeWitt, T. J., Troendle, N. J., Mateos, M., & Mauricio, R.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • DeWitt, Thomas J||Troendle, Nicholas J||Mateos, Mariana||Mauricio, Rodney

publication date

  • January 2022