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Environmental determinants of threespine stickleback species pair evolution and persistence

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Threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) species pairs are found in four watersheds in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, and are listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. Their origin is thought to be through a double-invasion process followed by character displacement; however, this hypothesis does not consider whether speciation is dependent on unique environmental factors necessary to support two species with separate habitat and resource requirements, which may be essential both for their evolution and persistence. To test whether species pair lakes have unique attributes, we compared abiotic and biotic factors of species pair lakes to lakes with only a single population of stickleback. There were no clear environmental differences between species pair and non-species pair lakes, but species pairs were only present in lakes with low fish species diversity, suggesting that evolution and persistence of species pairs requires a simplified fish community. Our study suggests that colonization history rather than unique lake attributes (related to either physical habitat or trophic resources) facilitated the evolution of stickleback species pairs and that the fish assemblage in lakes may affect resource availability and speciation potential as strongly as the limnological attributes of the lakes themselves.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Ministry of Environment, The University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. 2: Department of Zoology and Beaty Biodiversity Centre and Museum, The University of British Columbia, 2204 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-11-21

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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