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Life history and allozyme diversification in regional ecomorphs of the Hyalella azteca (Crustacea: Amphipoda) species complex

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In North America, several species in the freshwater amphipod genus Hyalella occur as one of two alternative phenotypic types, or ‘ecomorphs’, each possessing life history traits that allow success in alternative habitats that differ in predation regime. This study documents life history diversification, reproductive isolation and allozyme differentiation of Hyalella ecomorphs in Oklahoma, and compares these results to previously reported patterns of phenotypic and systematic diversification in Michigan. As in Michigan, two ecomorphs are common in Oklahoma, with an early maturing, small sized ecomorph found in habitats containing Lepomis sunfish, which prey on Hyalella, and a late reproducing, large sized ecomorph found in fishless habitats and in very shallow margins of large reservoirs. Allozyme analysis and laboratory interbreeding trials demonstrated that ecomorphs in Oklahoma are reproductively isolated species. Phenotypically, these species are very similar to species of the same ecomorph in Michigan. Large ecomorph species in the two regions differ substantially in allozyme allele composition in a pattern consistent with reproductive isolation, yet these species did not differ in a comparison of phenotype. The small ecomorph in Oklahoma is similar in phenotype to two of three small ecomorph species in Michigan. Overall, this study supports the hypothesis that Hyalella diversification in North America is characterized by the evolution of similar phenotypic solutions to comparable ecological challenges. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 84, 161–175.
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Keywords: Lepomis; adaptation; endemic species; evolution; predation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, Norman OK 73019, USA and 2: Department of Biological Station, University of Oklahoma, Norman OK 73019, USA

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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