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Morphometric and genetic analyses of two sympatric morphs of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) in the Canadian High Arctic

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Multivariate morphometric analyses were used to examine variation in head, body, and fin shape between two sympatric morphotypes of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus (L., 1758)) from Lake Hazen, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. Population structure of the Lake Hazen Arctic char was examined using five microsatellite loci. The “small” morph was found to have a larger (primarily deeper) head, larger and more elongate fins, and a deeper lateral profile than the “large” morph. The morphs also differed in allometric growth patterns. The large and small morphs do not appear to represent genetically distinct populations. The head morphology of the Lake Hazen small and large morphs exhibited similarities to benthic and pelagic morphs (respectively) from other lakes. We hypothesize that the large morph may be adapted to high-efficiency swimming and that the small morph may be adapted to low-efficiency, high-acceleration swimming. Such functional trade-offs are not uncommon among fish specializing in dispersed or mobile prey (fish and plankton) and benthic prey, respectively. The lack of apparent genetic differentiation between the morphs may suggest that the morphological differences result, to some extent, from phenotypic plasticity. Based on these results and previous analyses, it seems reasonable to conclude that Lake Hazen Arctic char represent a resource polymorphism.

Des analyses morphométriques multidimensionnelles nous ont servi à étudier la variation de la forme de la tête, du corps et des nageoires chez deux morphotypes sympatriques de l’omble chevalier (Salvelinus alpinus (L., 1758)) du lac Hazen, île d’Ellesmere, Nunavut, Canada. Nous avons déterminé la structure de population des ombles chevaliers du lac Hazen par l’examen de cinq locus microsatellites. Le morphotype « petit » possède une tête plus grosse (surtout plus haute), des nageoires plus grandes et plus allongées et un profil latéral plus élevé que le morphotype « grand ». Les morphotypes diffèrent aussi par leurs patrons de croissance allométrique. Les morphotypes petit et grand ne semblent pas représenter des populations génétiquement distinctes. La morphologie de la tête des morphotypes petit et grand du lac Hazen rappelle les morphotypes (respectivement) benthique et pélagique décrits dans d’autres lacs. Nous émettons l’hypothèse selon laquelle le grand morphotype peut être adapté à la nage de grande efficacité et le petit morphotype l’est à la nage de faible efficacité, mais d’accélération rapide. De tels compromis fonctionnels ne sont pas rares chez les poissons qui se spécialisent respectivement pour les proies dispersées ou mobiles (poissons et plancton) et pour les proies benthiques. L’absence apparente de différenciation génétique entre les morphotypes peut laisser croire que les différences morphologiques proviennent, dans une certaine mesure, de la plasticité phénotypique. D’après nos résultats et des analyses antérieures, il semble raisonnable de conclure que les ombles chevaliers du lac Hazen présentent un polymorphisme basé sur les ressources.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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