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Phenotypic variation among populations of Atherinops affinis(Atherinopsidae) with insights from a geometric morphometric analysis

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Morphological character variation was examined in Atherinops affinis, a temperate marine silverside with a broad geographic range and presumed limited powers of dispersal. Populations of this species were sampled from three California mainland sites, one Channel Island site and one site in the upper Gulf of California. A geometric morphometric analysis yielded higher resolution in the assessment of phenotypic divergence among the four Pacific coast populations than either body measurement or meristic analysis, and it showed that most of the shape variation among these populations occurs in the head region and body depth of the fish. All three analyses supported the hypothesis that populations of A. affinis from central and southern California coastal waters and from Santa Catalina Island are morphologically distinct from each other; the Santa Catalina Island population was found to be the most divergent. On the basis of meristic characters alone, the population of A. affinis from the upper Gulf of California was different from A. affinis populations along the Pacific coast of California. The analyses revealed variation in several morphological characters, e.g. body depth and meristics, known to vary in association with environmental conditions. Given that A. affinis appears to have low among‐population genetic variation, this species may be phenotypically plastic in response to the environmental conditions of the habitat of each population.
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Keywords: Atherinops affinis; Atherinopsidae; body proportions; geometric morphometrics; meristics; phenotypic variation

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Biological Science, California State University at Fullerton, Fullerton, CA 92 834-6850, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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