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Morphological variation in pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus introduced into Iberian lakes and reservoirs; adaptations to habitat type and diet?

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The morphology of pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus populations from five Catalonian waterbodies (north-eastern Spain) that vary in hydromorphometry was examined and compared to a native North American reference site that contained two morphological variants of this species. Populations exhibited significant differences in fin location, body depth and caudal peduncle length, which are known to have functional significance in the hydrodynamics of swimming and hence the foraging mode. Differences were also noted in internal morphological traits functionally related to prey selection. Pumpkinseed populations that fed extensively on zooplankton showed narrow gill raker spacing, and mollusc-feeding populations had longer and wider pharyngeal bones. Discriminant function analysis (DFA) provided significant separation of all populations on the basis of both external and internal morphology, with the main axis of separation being geographical rather than environmental. The secondary DFA axis, however, did separate populations that fed primarily on zooplankton from those that were primarily benthic invertebrate feeders. In this regard, a population that occupied an Iberian steep-sided reservoir with an unstable littoral zone showed similar morphological adaptations to the limnetic morphological variant native in North America, supporting previous studies showing that fish morphology is strongly affected by prey type and feeding mode. The results suggest that pumpkinseeds are able to adapt, morphologically, to the types of habitats and prey present in Catalonian waterbodies, and this may partially explain why they are so successful in areas where they have been introduced.
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Keywords: centrarchids; morphology; phenotypic plasticity; species introduction

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Girona, Girona, 17071, Spain

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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